Roseline Emma Rasolovoahangy
A former political consultant to the millionaire businesswoman who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency of Madagascar is suing the Belmont resident over more than $165,000 in unpaid bills.
In the lawsuit filed by Los Altos-based Global Policy Strategies, APC, firm president George “Duf” Sundheim claims he served as Roseline Emma Rasolovoahangy’s principal advisor, laid out her strategy and introduced her to an extensive political network including secretaries of state and public figures like former California first lady Maria Shriver. Sundheim served as chairman of the California Republican Party from 2003-2007.
According to published reports earlier this year, Rasolovoahangy’s platform included drawing overseas investment to the poverty-stricken country.
But Rasolovoahangy was disqualified from the October 2013 presidential race in August 2012 because she no longer had established residency and has not yet paid the $165,809 she owes, according to the suit filed Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court.
A 2010 constitutional referendum barred candidates that had not lived in the county for the previous six months.
Rasolovoahangy did not respond to an inquiry for comment.
Rasolovoahangy was a bookkeeper and accountant at the law firm of Doty & Sundheim starting in 1998, having taken the job to support her family after the assassination of her father and attempted assassination of her brother, Sundheim said.
She was overqualified but desperate to care for her family, he said.
She was also pursuing a Ph.D. in geophysics at Stanford University. Because of her financial circumstances, Sundheim provided his services on a volunteer basis.
In spring 2012, however, Rasolovoahangy netted millions of dollars in cash and stock in a business agreement with an Australian company to develop hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in Madagascar. She is the founding president of Petromad Limited and is reportedly the first native Madagascan to win a bid to search for oil in the country.
According to the suit, the windfall prompted her to run for president but Sundheim told her she had been out of the country so much for so long she would not have the political base to win even if she overcame other legal issues of getting on the ballot.
“It was a close question as to whether she would qualify,” Sundheim said.
Rasolovoahangy reportedly said she could not wait until the next election.
“If they want to go ahead, my role is to support them throughout,” Sundheim said of his advisory position.
Despite worries about his own physical safety, Sundheim agreed to serve as her senior advisor at the rate of $10,000 in August 2012 and thereafter for $20,000 per month which would be deferred until the campaign raised money. If the campaign did not raise the money, Rasolovoahangy would reportedly pay it from her personal account.
Among Sundheim’s services was the hiring of Matthew Dowd, senior strategist for former president George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 elections and a television analyst. Dowd was to be paid $35,000 per month but has still not received the funds, according to the suit.
The initial goal was securing the presidency but the longer-term plan was making a difference in the lives of people, Sundheim said.
In April 2013, she continued spending more than $100,000 per month on the campaign using her own funds while not paying those who worked for her, the suit stated.
The suit claims Rasolovoahangy was obligated to pay her debt at the time she was declared ineligible or the Oct. 25 election, whichever came first.
She keeps promising she will pay the money owed and giving repeated assurances, Sundheim said.
Sundheim said the situation is particularly painful because they had an established relationship prior to the business arrangement and he had previously helped her when she was in need.
“I never would have thought I’d be talking to a paper about her not paying me,” he said.
The breach of contract suit seeks the money owed, interest and legal costs.
A case management conference is scheduled for March.
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