Vice chairman of gaming committee rents condo from lobbyist

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By Mary Ellen Klas

Published April 1, 2013

Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat whose district was reconfigured because of redistricting to stretch into Broward County, maintains a residence in Fort Lauderdale by renting a condo from a prominent political consultant and gaming lobbyist. 

Sachs, vice chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, was re-elected to the Senate in November after a bitter election battle against former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. She told the Herald/Times she signed a lease to rent the condo on NE 9th St. in Fort Lauderdale from her long-time friend Judy Stern, but did not know she represented gambling clients.

Stern is not registered to lobby in Tallahassee but represents Mardi Gras Casinos and Delaware North, a food service and gaming machine company, in Broward County.

“Judy Stern and I go back many many years -- before I started in the legislature. We’re girlfriends,’’ Sachs said. “I didn’t know that those were her clients I think because she never lobbied me.’’ 

Sachs has carried a racing "de-coupling" bill for years that has been the top priority of Dan Adkins, vice president and Chief Operating Officer for Hartman and Tyner, which owns Mardi Gras Gaming in Hallandale Beach. The bill would allow dog tracks to shed their ailing dog racing business and continue to operate their lucrative slot machines and card rooms. 

Sachs said Stern doesn't need to lobby her on Mardi Gras-related issues. "Danny does a good job all by himself,'' she said.

Stern said she has had the condo on NE 9th St. in Fort Lauderdale for years and Sachs pays for the condo “every month by check. It's her residence."

But Sachs, who also owns a home in Boca Raton outside her district and a condo in Tallahassee where she lives during the session, also uses the Fort Lauderdale address to establish her district residency. She is registered to vote in Broward County. 

Sachs said she used to live in Broward County but moved to Palm Beach County, where she first ran for Senate, before renting the Broward condo. “The district changed and I changed with it,’’ she said.