By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty and conservative political operative Roger Stone were among 41 convicts and ex-cons granted full pardons last week by outgoing President Donald Trump.
Stone and McCarty together again. The White House pardon list didn’t mention their ugly prior association in its list of pardons and commutations. Nor did the White House mention that McCarty is the sister of lobbyist Brian Ballard, one of Trump’s top fundraisers.
Here’s all the White House had to say about McCarty:
“Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and (Newsmax boss) Christopher Ruddy are among those supportive of Ms. McCarty. Ms. McCarty was a longtime public servant in Palm Beach, Florida, serving as one of its County Commissioners. In 2009, she pled guilty to one count of honest services fraud. The Supreme Court has since interpreted that statute more narrowly, meaning that Ms. McCarty’s conduct might not be criminally prosecuted today.”
As for Stone:
“President Trump had previously commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence [of 40 months in prison following his conviction on seven felony counts] in July of this year. Mr. Stone is a 68-year-old man with numerous medical conditions. Due to prosecutorial misconduct by Special Counsel Mueller’s team, Mr. Stone was treated very unfairly. He was subjected to a pre-dawn raid of his home, which the media conveniently captured on camera. Mr. Stone also faced potential political bias at his jury trial. Pardoning him will help to right the injustices he faced at the hands of the Mueller investigation.’’
The Stone and McCarty scheme
The Stone/McCarty scheme involved the disputed presidential election of 2000: Bush v. Gore. And how Stone, then a low-profile political “dirty trickster,” and McCarty, a sitting Palm Beach commissioner and former chair of the county’s Republican Party, sought to pressure the Florida Supreme Court to rule in favor of George W. Bush in the ballot recount battle.
To do that, Stone and McCarty created the “Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary” just days after that year’s Nov. 7 election and used it in an illegal fundraising scheme that targeted three state Supreme Court justices. Democrat nominee Al Gore asked the high court on Nov. 15 to order hand recounts in the decisive Florida race.
The story of what happened was laid out in testimony elicited by the Florida Election Commission (FEC) in 2003.
Florida State Administrative Law Judge Harry L. Hooper concluded that McCarty, the committee’s chairwoman, was a “front” for a campaign orchestrated by Stone, who then owned a $2.2-million bayfront mansion in Surfside. He ruled McCarty violated state campaign laws.
“This was an attempt to let the justices know, who were going to eventually decide the presidential election, that they were going to be watched,” commission assistant counsel Eric M. Lipman said in his opening arguments. “And it was an attempt to influence what they were going to do.”
Judge Hooper determined that Stone, through his Washington, D.C.-based firm Ikon Public Affairs was the person behind the campaign during the 2000-2001 effort to defeat the justices in the 2002 merit retention election. Who, if anyone, instructed and paid Stone was never determined.
‘Sergeant Schultz defense’
During two days of testimony, McCarty, fresh off her election to a fourth term on the county commission, testified that she was “played by Stone.” In an earlier deposition, she’d called the committee a “scam.”
At the hearing, FEC counsel Lipman mocked McCarty’s claim that she was duped by Stone, labeling it the “Sergeant Schultz defense,” after the character on the Hogan’s Heroes TV show. “I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing… And nothing could be further from the truth,” Lipman said, according to a transcript.
McCarty’s lawbreaking included findings that she certified the accuracy of a campaign treasurer’s report that was “incorrect, false or incomplete,” accepted excessive contributions and displayed a “reckless disregard” for state elections laws.
The political action committee targeted then-justices Harry Lee Anstead, Charles T. Wells and Leander J. Shaw. A highly publicized “Mad as Hell” letter by McCarty was mailed to as many as 350,000 conservatives in early December 2000 and sought to raise $4.5 million to unseat them.
Hundreds of people responded, sending in a total of about $220,000. That included a mysterious $150,000 loan from a mysterious Virginia company whose address was the same as that of the Stone Group, a fundraising and marketing firm owned by Roger Stone’s ex-wife, conservative activist Ann Stone. The contribution limit to state political committees was then $500.
Nevertheless, each of the judges won his retention election.
Stone used a similar political committee strategy in New York in 2000 on behalf of Donald Trump while pushing legislation to scuttle legislation that would have allowed the Mohawk Indians to build a casino to compete with Trump’s Atlantic City casinos. New York’s Temporary Lobbying Commission fined Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., the Institute for Law and Society and Stone $250,000 as part of a settlement that ended an investigation into unreported lobbying expenses.
The investigation found that a direct mail campaign sponsored by the purportedly public-minded Institute for Law and Society was actually orchestrated by Trump and Stone, with the true source of funding hidden from state voters. As part of the settlement, Stone and Trump publicly apologized for misleading the public “concerning the production and funding of the lobbying effort.”