Shill: (noun) an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others.
While it’s not uncommon for political debates to feature softball questions planted with friendly audience members, last night’s Broward County Commission District 4 debate took the art of the shill to a whole new level. The debate featured Commissioner Chip LaMarca, his Democrat challenger Ken Keechl and several city of Oakland Park candidates. Steven Stoll of Fort Lauderdale asked the very first question. He asked Chip LaMarca about the beach damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. LaMarca immediately went into a prepared answer where he name-dropped popular politicians like Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler. However, LaMarca never told the audience that Steven Stoll is representing him in his foreclosure case.
An October 2013 review of court records revealed how “lobbyists, professional sports franchises, and the proliferation of campaign cash have played a role” in LaMarca’s foreclosure case. LaMarca and his wife are represented by Steven Stoll in their case against Wells Fargo bank. Broward Clerk Of Court records show the LaMarcas failed to make payments on a Wells Fargo Bank line of credit issued in June of 2006. Commissioner LaMarca’s bank statements show he stopped making payments in August of 2010, just three months before winning the 2010 election.
In January of 2009, while he was chairman of the Broward Republican Party, Chip LaMarca named Stoll as the party’s legal counsel. One year later, Stoll and several local police officers were arrested as part of a federal investigation into mortgage fraud. The United States Attorney dismissed the charges against Stoll in October of 2011.
Last December, this reporter uncovered photographs of Chip LaMarca and his wife attending the fancy 2013 “Mad for Mods” gala with Steven Stoll, his wife Rebecca Stoll and David DiPietro, his other lawyer in the foreclosure case. DiPietro, a North Broward Health District Commissioner, is one of LaMarca’s political advisers. He also attended last night’s debate.
In fact, the tiny audience for the debate was almost entirely made up of LaMarca’s immediate family, staffers and political advisers. Dan Lewis a local political consultant long rumored to be part of the LaMarca campaign, also attended the debate. Lewis, a Democrat, is known as “Mr. Blue Card.” He allegedly produced a blue palm card endorsing Democrats during 2012 early voting. Many poltical insiders claim the “blue card” helped Sheriff Scott Israel and President Barack Obama win Broward with huge margins of victory.
Last night, LaMarca gave the audience nothing but shills and political spin. He filled the crowd with consultants and family to offer false cheer. Will Chip LaMarca ever give the public real answers?