There are enough candidates running for the CD 18 seat to field a football team, so you'd think I could wait to single one out until after the August primaries. Normally, I would. In millionaire Democrat Randy Perkins' case, I'm making an exception: I just can't write too much on a man who frankly fails the most important citizenship tests but wants voters to send him to Washington.
Perkins, 52, is founder and CEO of Deerfield Beach-based AshBritt Inc., a disaster-recovery business he started in 1992, after Hurricane Andrew. But it wasn't until 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that he really cleaned up, figuratively and literally.
It always beats me why millionaires want to run for office, except maybe to unlock doors to even more personal millions. There's no place like Washington to do that. But I won't go there. At least, not specifically.
How deceptive is Candidate Perkins? Lets take it from the top:
1. Working the loopholes. In 2005, as "one of the largest debris-removal firms in the country," Ashbritt took advantage of federal regulation loopholes to claim the company was a small business. It gave him preferential treatment for fat federal contracts. In fact, he does it to this day.
Says Griffe Witte and Renae Merle in "Defining Small," an Oct. 20, 2005 story in The Washington Post, "The government's list of small businesses receiving Katrina-related federal contracts along the Gulf Coast includes one of the largest debris-removal firms in the country and a billion-dollar corporation that boasts former vice president Dan Quayle on its board of directors. Neither company is a small business by any conventional standard. But because of a loophole in federal regulations, a company can be counted as one if it was once small even if it is not now, raising questions about the statistics the government has been citing to defend itself from charges that it has favored big companies in the massive Hurricane Katrina cleanup."
Ashbritt continued to be recognized as a small business after it had received a $150 million contract and had more than $150 million in revenue in 2004, according to the WaPo story.
In fact, to this day the company self-identifies as a small business in "Manufactured Home Manufacturing," according to the North American Classification System (NAICS). Look up Askbritt, Inc, Small Business Administration Profile, dsbs.sba.gov.
2. Working the loopholes, Part Deux. Perkins also misrepresented Ashbritt as a female- and minority-owned business, even though he ran the company. Presumably, the idea was, when he wanted to bid on Katrina cleanup work, the small-business designation wasn't the best way to win big-money contracts.
The same newspaper story also included this: "Ashbritt -- which until last week listed itself in government databases as a minority-owned, woman-owned firm even though the company is run by a white man -- won a $500 million debris-removal contract with the Corps of Engineers after Katrina. For that work, it is listed as a large contractor. ...
"Perkins is listed as AshBritt's managing vice president on the company's Web site. His wife, a Cuban American named Saily, is listed in state records as the company's president."
So, there you have it. In the federally run Central Contractor Registration database, the one used by small and minority-run firms to market themselves, Ashbritt was listed as minority-owned, woman-owned and Hispanic-American-owned as of Oct. 20, 2005.
Says Wikipedia, "In Mississippi (after Katrina), AshBritt conducted debris removal, hazardous tree mitigation and demolition services in 17 jurisdictions, covering over 8,400 square miles (22,000 km2) and over 175 miles (280 km) inland. AshBritt collected, hauled and processed 21 million cubic yards of debris and wreckage. AshBritt staffed, managed and operated 49 debris management sites. AshBritt hauled over 700,000 loads of debris, using 12,400 certified operational vehicles.
Oh, did I mention that when Saily Perkins gave $25,000 to the Republican National Committee and $2,000 to a congressional campaign in 2004, she listed her occupation as "homemaker"?
The "minority-owned, woman-owned" thing caused something of a stink at WaPo. In the end Perkins told the paper "minority-owned, woman-owned" had been a "clerical mistake." After the reporters' intervention, the listing was changed to reflect that "Saily Perkins is no longer president."
3. Perkins is no Democrat. He was a no-party-affiliate less than year ago. And before that, most of his political contributions went to Republicans. The Palm Beach Post reports that "since 2001, Perkins and AshBritt have made $45,800 in federal campaign contributions to Democrats, including $7,700 to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House bid ... Over the same period, Perkins and AshBritt have contributed $45,500 to Republican candidates and $94,500 to Republican committees.
At the state level, Florida records show AshBritt and Perkins have given a combined $216,500 to the Republican Party of Florida, with AshBritt also contributing $100,000 to a Republican Governors Association PAC in 2010. AshBritt has given $20,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Perkins and AshBritt have also contributed to individual candidates from both parties.
So, maybe his money is conservative but his underlying principles are progressive ... is that what you're thinking? Uh, maybe, but how can you tell? Randy Perkins registered to vote as an independent on March 1, 1994 in Broward County. His voter registration sign-up showed he initially planned to register as a Republican but crossed it out on the form. Have a look at the form reproduced on this page.
4. Not enough early voting days for Perkins. On the campaign trail voters are hearing what a committed citizen he is. Is he as moved by democracy, freedom and all things U.S. Constitution as he sounds in the speeches he gives? I say no. I say hell, no. Voting records show that since registering to vote in 1994, Perkins has voted in a grand total of nine elections of the 33 for which he was eligible in Broward County.
Though he still has his $10 million home in Delray Beach, he did, at least, establish himself at a CD 18 address in Palm Beach Gardens. He registered to vote in Palm Beach County on Feb. 25, 2016.
5. Tax lien trouble. Randy and Saily Perkins have had multiple tax liens filed against them, including a federal tax lien of $8,696 and state tax liens in Indiana, South Carolina and California. In California, the lien was related to Perkins’ failure to pay personal income and corporate taxes.
6. Liens against his property. Ditto, involving five property liens filed between 2001 and 2011 against the couple in Broward and Monroe counties.
7. Perkins is a gamble. He has a history of not paying for services rendered.
For instance, he was named in a breach of contract lawsuit for work related to reconstruction in Haiti. On Dec. 13, 2010, Lewis Lucke LLC sued AshBritt, Inc., Haiti Recovery Group Ltd. and GB Group for $492,483.33 for breach of contract. Eventually, the case was dismissed with prejudice after the parties involved agreed to a settlement.
Other "failures to pay" primarily involve a roster of contractors who claimed they weren't paid for their work.
But ... in spite of sometimes shabby treatment of his creditors, Perkins certainly isn't skimping on his own campaign. Of the whopping $3.4 million he's had in his treasury -- most of it coming from himself -- he's spent 42 percent of it. Certainly Democratic leaders are behind him. They do love their self-financiers.
So, there you have it. My message is simple:
CD 18 voters, you have a vast and wondrous choice: Besides Perkins you've got Jonathan Chane and John Xuna on the ballot if you vote Democratic; Rebecca Negron, Carl Domino, Brian Mast, Rick Kozell, Noelle Nikpour, and Mark Freeman if you vote Republican; or there's always no-party-affiliate Carla Spalding or write-in Marilyn Holloman.
Elect one of those. Send Perkins back to live on his "small business" loophole. It seems to be doing nicely for him.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith