Political adviser's troubles escalate

Complaints from dissatisfied candidates lead to charges of theft and scheming to defraud.

Published July 4, 2006

LARGO - Peter Schorsch was once one of the most promising young political consultants in the Tampa Bay area.

Now he's facing three felony charges because authorities say he took money from political candidates or organizations but didn't provide the services he promised.

Schorsch, 30, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail last week on charges of grand theft and scheming to defraud. He was held for a day before he was released on posted $5,000 bail.

Schorsch was the subject of a St. Petersburg Times profile in December that told of his promising political future and the personal and financial problems that threatened to ruin his career.

"I'm irresponsible," Schorsch said then. "I've never claimed otherwise. I don't know what's going to happen to me, but it's been a heck of a ride."

Schorsch was once considered a bright political consultant who won national awards and launched a political blog that drew more than 3,000 hits per day. Local political candidates sought him out.

But his personal finances were in tatters. He was evicted from an apartment for not paying $575 in rent. His car was repossessed. Creditors and the IRS were on his back. He was charged with bouncing 16 checks at Publix.

His arrest last week, on charges that carry a maximum of 15 years in prison, suggest those personal woes seeped into his professional life.

Eve Joy, who hired Schorsch last year when she ran for the St. Petersburg District 2 City Council seat, filed a complaint with police after she lost the November election. She said Schorsch took her money but never delivered what he promised.

Schorsch told the Times in December that the situation was a "misunderstanding" over about $3,000. Joy could not be reached for comment Monday.

Schorsch also was paid by the Tarpon Springs Democratic Club to set up a Web site, which he never did, said Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant for State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

Bartlett said Schorsch also is accused of taking money from another candidate for a St. Petersburg office, though he didn't know the name. A copy of Schorsch's arrest affidavit was unavailable Monday.

Schorsch's attorney, Joseph Hobson, said he doesn't believe his client committed any crimes.

Most of his problems, Hobson said, involved "business dealings gone south. "I don't think it rises to a criminal level of conduct."

When he was arrested, Schorsch told deputies that he was working at a restaurant. Hobson said Schorsch is not involved in political consulting.

"He's taking a break from it now," Hobson said.

Schorsch grew up in St. Petersburg and was active in student government at Northeast High School. He attended Florida State University, where he was active in campus government and held several internships with politicians.

He eventually went to work for the Mallard Group in Clearwater, which represents some high-profile Pinellas County Republicans. He worked on campaigns for state Rep. Frank Farkas, state Rep. Leslie Waters and state Sen. Dennis Jones. He shared in several awards for his work.

After a falling-out with the founder of the Mallard Group, Schorsch started his own firm, PS Creative. Some clients who hired him were not pleased.

St. Petersburg City Council member Leslie Curran said she fired Schorsch after a check he used to pay for campaign signs bounced. Council member Earnest Williams said he fired Schorsch after he failed to deliver mail pieces and didn't send out absentee ballots.

In addition, Schorsch was charged in September with writing 16 worthless checks for cash at Publix. The checks totaled more than $1,200. He pleaded guilty in December and was fined.

Schorsch told the Times that he wrote the checks to cover debts he incurred gambling on basketball games.

On his blog he wrote: "I am not an elected official. I've never asked for the public trust, so if I drink too much, eat too much, snort too much, fight too much ... or do too much of whatever else, then I do that at my own peril."

Among his interests listed on his blog profile: poetry, art, cinema, racquetball, fashion, gambling and poker.