Diaz was so impressed with Lorenzo’s campaign work that he recommended him and Illas to then-candidate Barack Obama’s presidential campaign team in 2008.
“They targeted the Hispanic vote in Miami-Dade County,” Diaz told The Herald in a text message. “It led to a highly successful phone bank led by François and Al which produced a highly positive Hispanic vote for Obama.”
Democrats in Miami-Dade wanted to hire Lorenzo again this election cycle. But he didn’t get the job because of his ties to Rubio, a Republican senator elected in 2010.
A decade ago, Lorenzo began working with Bob Levy, a longtime lobbyist and political consultant who largely focused on judicial races for circuit and county court. Levy focuses on non-Hispanic white and black voters; Lorenzo handles Hispanics.
“What we do is kind of niche,” Levy said. “There aren’t really that many people in the field.”
Case in point: Both Lorenzo and Levy work for Rundle and for numerous judicial candidates — though they are also on opposing sides in some races.
Levy and others described Lorenzo, a married father of two, as a family man who attends baseball games with his son and drives him to college at Florida State University. His daughter from a previous marriage is a lobbyist for Florida International University, Lorenzo’s alma mater after he graduated from Hialeah Senior High.
Lorenzo began his career in banking and finance. At one point, he worked with prominent businessman Herman Echevarría. Lorenzo didn’t create Quantum until 2000, seven years after first getting into consulting with former Miami Mayor David Kennedy.
Lorenzo aided Rubio, now a U.S. senator, during his first campaign for the Florida Legislature in 2000. Over the years, he collected $140,000 from Rubio’s campaigns, including $80,000 during the 2010 Senate race.
Lorenzo, who in the past has lobbied for about 10 companies before the Miami-Dade County Commission, is currently Doral’s lobbyist in Tallahassee. In the wake of the current political firestorm, a city council member has requested to review Lorenzo’s lobbying contract.
Word-of-mouth has gotten Lorenzo steady work from judicial candidates, whose campaigns are limited by ethical rules that prohibit them from making promises of their conduct from the bench.
Tanya Brinkley, a Lorenzo client, said she hired him early as “a preemptive strike.” She also hired Levy, she said, because both have good reputations.
“It’s a given that if you hire them, they won’t represent your opponent,” she said.
Lorenzo’s Achilles heel: Ramos, the subcontractor he sometimes employed to perform administrative duties and as a driver. In 2008, the 47-year-old Ramos, whose record includes convictions for credit-card forgery, check forgery and grand theft, was convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison for forging postage stamps.
“Ramos’ criminal history discloses that he is a habitual thief, fraud, forger, and counterfeiter,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwayne E. Williams argued in an April 6, 2009, court filing during Ramos’ sentencing.
Gimenez said Tuesday the case was enough to worry him.
“On the surface, it looks like [the charges were] campaign related. That’s serious,” Gimenez said. “[Lorenzo’s] duty was to tell me.”
Joe Carollo, a former Miami mayor who hired Lorenzo in the 1990s, supports Fernández Rundle’s opponent, Rod Vereen. He said Gimenez did the right thing, and he faulted Lorenzo.
“That’s not how a consultant should act,” Carollo said. “Gimenez handled it like someone who had nothing to hide. Rundle is handling it like someone who has something to hide.”
Levy, Fernández Rundle’s consultant and spokesman, said she recused herself from the Cabrera case and kept Ramos from working on her race.
He considered Lorenzo’s termination “an overreaction” by Gimenez’s campaign, though he didn’t fault the mayor.
“No elected official likes to be surprised about anything in a campaign,” he said. “They think, ‘If there’s that out there, and I didn’t know, what else is out there?’ ”
Miami Herald staff writers Daniel Chang and Jay Weaver, and El Nuevo Herald staff writer Melissa Sánchez contributed to this report.