Hillsborough County businessman Aakash Patel raised more than $51,000 (although that figure includes a $20,000 loan) in June for his campaign for the Hillsborough County Commission.
Campaign finance records show that Patel spent $19,000 paying New Jersey-based political consultant Elnatan Rudolph, a man with a colorful past, to say the least.
Identified in press reports as “a self-described protege of Roger Stone,” the venerable and controversial GOP operative, Rudolph is something of a political wunderkind, beginning his career when he was 16 years old when he worked for Rudy Giuliani’s 1997 campaign for New York mayor.
Rudolph then went to work for New York city-based Democratic Party consultant Hank Sheinkopf at his firm, Sheinkopf Communications Ltd., working mostly with Republican candidates.
Rudolph was elected to the Teaneck, New Jersey City Council at the age of 25 in 2006, but narrowly lost a bid for re-election in 2008.
That’s the good stuff. Rudolph has also faced some setbacks.
He was the subject of a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the Bergen County Improvement Authority, which claimed that he made $95,000 at the agency without ever doing much work. That suit was ultimately dismissed by a judge, and the BCIA ultimately paid all of Rudolph’s legal fees.
In 2013, Crain’s New York reported in a complaint filed by the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2013, Rudolph’s political consultant company (called Cornerstone Management Partners) was named in a criminal complaint as “Vendor #1 “ and said to have helped political consultant Melvin Lowe take $100,000 from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee without providing any actual services.
Lowe later admitted during confidential meetings with prosecutors to the crime.
In an interview on Tuesday, Rudolph says he was brought in by Lowe to do direct mail for him, and says Lowe used Randolph to funnel money to himself without ever doing anything with the direct mail pieces he worked on. Rudolph would later testify for the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Lowe.
Rudolph’s association with Stone brought him to Florida a decade ago. The first campaign he worked on was the Senate effort of Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla. He also worked on Carlos Gimenez’ 20111 bid for Miami mayor.
In 2010, Rudolph worked for a political committee working specifically on Jewish community outreach for Pam Bondi, who was running against Dan Gelber for Attorney General. In that campaign he was the architect of a controversial ad which called Gelber “toxic to Jewish Education.” The ad was ruled as being “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact.
Patel’s campaign is Rudolph’s first in Tampa Bay.
Patel says he talks daily with Rudolph, and says as the campaign moves forward, Rudolph plans to spend more of his time in Hillsborough County.
Patel says he has 17 fundraising events lined up for the rest of 2017. He is the first Republican to stake out the seat that technically isn’t up for election until 2020. However, once Sandy Murman announces she is stepping down to run in District 7, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office will put the race on the 2018 ballot.