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Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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Candidates aim to curb fraud

Florida's reputation as a haven for criminals is not just fodder for fiction writers such as Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey and Ace Atkins. It's a central theme of the race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Saying that Floridians are especially at risk for fraud and scams as the economy continues to sputter, and that gangs and pill mills are adding to the misery quotient, South Florida state senators David Aronberg and Dan Gelber are each touting their legal backgrounds as they try to convince primary voters they are the best man to serve as the state's top law enforcement officer. "My entire career has focused on AG issues of consumer protection and public safety," said Aronberg. "I've been dedicated to stopping scammers and ensuring our neighborhoods are safe. And I have the record to prove it, from passing landmark legislation to protect our privacy from identity thieves to eliminating the statute of limitations for prosecuting those who commit sex crimes against children." Gelber touts his legal experience. "As a federal prosecutor in South Florida for nearly a decade I tried every type of case imaginable. I prosecuted drug cartels, violent street gangs, economic and environmental criminals, and corrupt public officials. I eventually served as a top deputy in the office and managed hundreds of lawyers and thousands of investigations. I also worked with local and state law enforcement and corrections on various initiatives."
Aronberg and Gelber both key on consumer protection as a primary function of the office which, in addition to being Florida's top law enforcement officer is also one of three members of the governor's cabinet and considered the second most important elected official in the state. Aronberg said he will focus on mortgage fraud, foreclosure scams and "all other deceptive and unfair trade practices that prey upon people in difficult economic times." Fighting fraud is also a centerpiece of Gelber's campaign. With the likes of Bernie Madoff and Art Nadel in Florida, Gelber said if he's elected, he'll create a unit specifically to investigate and prosecute investment fraud. "As attorney general, I will create an Investment Fraud Unit whose purpose is to investigate and prosecute these criminals," said Gelber. "This will be one of my highest priorities." Gelber said that mortgage fraud is a particular threat to Floridians, and he would work with law enforcement and state attorneys to quickly prosecute scams. Both Aronberg and Gelber think the biggest law enforcement challenge facing the next attorney general has to do with pill mills - doctors' offices or clinics that freely dispense narcotics without a medical reason. Aronberg says combating pill mills and gangs are equally important. "The next attorney general needs to make enforcement of our powerful new anti-gang law a priority" and needs to help the state set up a prescription drug monitoring database "to combat doctor shopping." Gelber said in fighting pill mills, the attorney general needs to coordinate investigative efforts between local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors. Both men remain steadfast in their opposition to an Arizona-style immigration law that allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of those lawfully detained. And each opposes the continuation of the current attorney general's lawsuit against the federal government over the recently enacted health care reform. Aronberg has been endorsed by, among many others, the state's two largest law enforcement unions - the Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police - as well as all 15 Democratic sheriffs who made endorsements and Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts Pat Frank. Gelber has been endorsed by, among many others, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Tampa Bay House Democrats, AFSCME, the South Florida Council of Fire Fighters, Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward and former Tampa Police chief Eddy Gonzalez. As similar as Gelber and Aronberg are, and as collegial as their campaigns started out, the race has not been without its spats and sparring. Aronberg blasted Gelber for his association with Akerman Senterfitt, a law firm that represents BP. Because of that association, Aronberg said, his opponent could not adequately represent the state against BP. Gelber responded by saying he was merely "of-counsel" to the firm, meaning he chose his own clients and wasn't guaranteed a share of the profits from partners' work for other clients. He said he resigned before it became a campaign issue but did not leave until his clients found representation. Gelber has chided Aronberg over experience, referring to his opponent as a "junior lawyer," and said Aronberg backed property insurance legislation opposed by consumer groups and voted for a bill to expand private school tuition vouchers. Aronberg acknowledges he has no jury trial experience, but defends his years as a lawyer, starting in 1996. Aronberg said in 2009 the property insurance bill, which would have let some insurance companies offer policies at unregulated rates, would have offered some customers an alternative to state-sponsored Citizens Property Insurance. He said the 2003 bill expanding a voucher program was included in a bill implementing the constitutional amendment limiting public school class sizes. DEMOCRATS DAVE ARONBERG Marital Status: Single Age: 39 Education: BA, Harvard University, 1993; JD, Harvard University, 1996 Professional Experience: Attorney, Greenspoon, Marder, Hirschfeld, Rafkin, Ross and Berger 2003-present; Special Assistant, Secretary of the United States Treasury Department, 2001-2002; Assistant Attorney General, Economic Crimes Division, 2001-2002, 1999-2000; White House Fellow, 2000. Political experience: State Senate 2003-present. Website: www.davearonberg.com/ DAN GELBER Age: 49 Marital status: Married, three children Education: BA, Tufts University, 1982; JD, University of Florida College of Law, 1985 Professional experience: Akerman Senterfitt (Of Counsel) 2005 - 2010 (Resigned in June); Zuckerman Spaeder 2001-2005; Holland & Knight 1996-2000; Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District Florida 1986-1994; Democratic Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations 1994-1996 Political experience: State Senator, 2008-present; State Representative 2001-2008; Minority Leader, Florida State House of Representatives, 2006-2008 Website: www.dangelber.com
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