Mysterious Donors Throw $ 550,000 in Spoiler Candidate Ads at Florida Senate Tournaments

TALLAHASSEE – The mysterious company, backed by a half-million-dollar contribution that supports independent candidates in three key state Senate races, has raised legal issues about compliance with Florida law on campaign finance.

Proclivity is registered under the name 501 (c) (4) in Delaware, a state known under company law, as the registered agent of the company. His corporate status and $ 550,000 contribution to two political committees raises questions about whether he should be registered as a political committee in Florida, said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee attorney who specializes in ethics and election law.

Under Florida law, an entity must register as a political committee if it adopts more than $ 500 in a calendar year for election or political purposes. If Proclivity qualifies as a political committee under Florida law, it may result in administrative sanctions or misdemeanor charges.

But only time and the company’s corporate announcements will tell.

“The battle to find this can take years,” Herron said. “Why will the Attorney General be more interested in murder or paper persecution in Delaware?”

Natalie Kato, a Tallahassee-based election and campaign finance attorney, said the organization must continue to comply with the Internal Revenue Service, while noting that Florida’s 501 (c) (4) disclosure is “indisputably vague.”

“If a 501 (c) (4) fails to prove that their primary purpose is advocacy rather than political activity, the organization may be burdened with revoking their status under taxes, fines, or the Internal Revenue Code,” Kato said. .

Proclivity’s $ 550,000 donation to two political committees – The Truth PC and Florida PC – was used to purchase mailing ads that advertised non-partisan candidates in three Senate races, including a man whose candidacy is being investigated by Miami-Dade state prosecutors.

“The company appears to have been set up to protect donors in this competition. The public does not know who the donor is because the donor company and the company is a straw man. Said Leonard Collins, a Tallahassee lawyer and former senior adviser to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

Proclivity’s mission statement includes “publicizing the position of elected officials” on policies that favor “quality of life for families”. However, the annual company does not have a working phone and its address is an UPS store in Atlanta.

Proclivity, the first donor to Florida’s campaigns and political committees, first appeared in campaign finance reports in early October, as Politico first reported.

Much is not known about the company, and where it got the $ 550,000 to throw an estimated hundreds of thousands of political mail ads into the mailboxes of voters in Senate Districts 9, 37, and 39, three contests that are key in determining power relations of the Florida Senate.

And questions remain as to why two women around the age of 20 with unknown political experience register as sole agents for two newly created political committees. Women have occasionally violated Florida’s election laws by late submitting campaign financial statements, which state records could lead to fines.

“The fines are relatively small,” Collins said. “Their problems will be behind the curtain,” if the state decides to investigate Proclivity.

Juan Carlos Planas, an election lawyer for Coral Gables, who represented the Democratic candidate for District 37, said the possible consequences would be “hinges”.

There is no question from the Election Department

Florida State Department officials overseeing the election department did not answer the question of whether the state is considering fines to the PACs or plans to refer the matter to the Florida Electoral Commission.

Collins said the accounts for the political committees are empty and they may have nothing to report. Although they would have had to submit a letter to comply with state laws, this issue can usually be worked out, he said.

“They had a significant amount,” Collins said. – There’s firepower behind someone.

The registered representatives of the committees responsible for the balance of the books are, according to the Electoral Department, Sierra Olive and Hailey DeFilippis, two young women with no known political experience. Both women are from the Tampa Bay area, Olive Palm Harbor and DeFilippis Dunedin.

The attempt by Olive and DeFilippis over the phone, email and social media was unsuccessful.

Under the Florida Campaign Finance Act, political committees can be fined $ 50 per day for the first three days after the submission deadline and then $ 500 per day thereafter.

Political committees appear to have been set up only for the purpose of purchasing postal advertisements announcing non-partisan candidates in three Senate races. The ads discussed the candidates as living with progressive ideas, an obvious attempt to reach democratic voters.

None of the candidates campaigned on their own, and some lied about the details of their candidacy and were recently registered as Republicans.

Alex Rodriguez, a non-party candidate who was likely to shake the result of Miami-Dade Senate District 37, confessed to the Herald that he lived outside the district in Boca Raton, two counties away.

Miami-Dade attorneys are investigating his candidacy after a couple living in the house listed on his oath took the WPLG-10 to tell Glenna Milberg that Rodriguez hadn’t lived there for five years.

The winners push forward

Despite national – and national – interest in the interesting conditions of the competitions, winners of all three Senate competitions were selected and the results were verified by government officials.

Ileana Garcia, Jason Brodeur and Ana Maria Rodriguez were three Republicans sworn in the Florida Senate last week and welcomed by Democratic colleagues. Their Democratic opponents let go.

José Javier Rodríguez acknowledged his Senate 37th district race on the day the recount ended with only 32 final votes cast, and has since criticized the integrity of the election and demanded an investigation in a video post posted on Facebook. Alex Rodriguez received more than 6,300 votes out of 215,610 votes cast in the contest.

However, Garcia suppressed Rodríguez’s allegations and has yet to admit that prosecutors are investigating the non-party candidate in the race.

In a statement last week, Garcia called his criticism a “temper” and said he was “extending Mr Rodríguez’s pardon, which he could not obtain for himself”.

President Donald Trump made significant gains in Miami-Dade County and reduced his 2016 deficit by more than 20 points. Trump improved his performance in Senate District 37 by more than 9 points, which probably helped Garcia win the district.

As the story of the non-party candidate gets national attention, Garcia became increasingly louder on social media. He remained silent for much of the campaign, clearly clearing his social media and ignoring the Miami Herald’s telephone, email, and in-person interview requests.

Tuesday morning, a day after CNN reported on the issue, he pointed out that Rodríguez ran into a tight race when he turned the seat in 2016 and won about 6,000 votes in a race in which a non-party candidate had nearly 10,000. received. .

“Where were the outrage, the trolls, the threats and the media?” he said.

In 2016, there was no coordinated mail campaign around the non-party candidate with talk points for progressive voters. The integrity of the candidate without a party was also not examined.

Before a three-day recount found Garcia to win by just 32 votes, she celebrated election night at the small Havana restaurant in Versailles alongside supporters and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, who overtook Donna Shalala in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

“I knew it was going to be hard, but we were aware of what and what we wanted to do in Tallahassee,” Garcia told the Miami Herald election night. “So when that happens, a clear path leads.”