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CFO Patronis Calls for Investigation Into Bloomberg's Political Spending

9/23/2020

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Contact: Office of Communications, Communications@MyFloridaCFO.com, 850.413.2842

CFO Patronis Calls for Investigation Into Bloomberg's Political Spending

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis requested the Florida Elections Commission (FEC) investigate whether former New York Mayor, and Presidential Candidate, Michael Bloomberg is trying to illegally influence the outcome of Florida’s election. CFO Jimmy Patronis served on the FEC from 1998 to 2003.

CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Today, I am asking the Florida Elections Commission to investigate Michael Bloomberg on whether he’s breaking the law by giving direct cash for votes. Reports that the failed presidential candidate is spending tens-of-millions of dollars on restitution for certain registered voters doesn’t smell right to me. Clearly, Bloomberg is using his money and power to tilt the upcoming election in November. If he wants to make a political donation – there’s a process but hiding behind voting rights groups appears to circumvent Florida law. Florida’s Elections Commission is a great authority for determining to what degree Bloomberg has broken the law.”

According to media reports, Bloomberg has raised over $16 million in effort for felons to regain their voting rights. To date, his organization has paid off obligations for over 30,000 felons before the November election. Additionally, certain individuals could be reimbursed for their restitution payments on the basis of whether they are registered to vote.

FEC LETTER BELOW:

Dear Commissioners:

It has come to my attention that recent Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg has made widely publicized contributions to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (“the Coalition”), a 501(c)3 organization. In turn, the Coalition is using Mr. Bloomberg’s contributions to pay off fines and fees owed by convicted felons. According to the Coalition’s press materials, Mr. Bloomberg’s contributions “will pay the fines and fees of tens of thousands of returning citizens so they will be eligible to vote and participate in this November’s Election” (sic).

Section 106.11(5), Florida Statues, defines “contributions” as “[a] gift, subscription, conveyance, deposit, loan, payment, or distribution of money… made for the purpose of influencing the results of an election or making an electioneering communication.”

The Coalition website encourages individuals who have questions about its “Fines and Fees Program” to call 1-877-MYVOTE-0.  On September 22, 2020, the Coalition distributed a press release (attached) containing the following statement:

As our democracy is under attack by so many including the President (emphasis added) a bipartisan supermajority of the people of Florida voted for Amendment 4 in order to expand democracy to returning citizens who had already served their sentences.

Chapter 106.011 Florida Statutes defines “Electioneering Communication”, in part, as a publicly distributed[1] communication that refers to or depicts a clearly identified candidate for office without expressly advocating election or defeat that is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate, and is made within 60 days before a general election and is targeted to the relevant electorate in the geographic area the candidate would represent if elected. 

The excerpt quoted above can only be interpreted as an appeal to vote against President Trump. Additionally, since this is occurring within 60 days of the November 3 General Election, the Coalition is engaged in Electioneering Communications. Despite its non-profit status the Coalition must be treated as an Electioneering Communication Organization, as defined in Section 106.011(9), Florida Statutes. Combined with contributions by Mr. Bloomberg—an individual who has publicly committed hundreds of millions of dollars to partisan elections—the Coalition is engaging in purely partisan activities.

I believe these facts compel an investigation by the Florida Elections Commission into the legality of these contributions. This investigation at a minimum should determine whether the Coalition has complied with the compulsory reporting requirements for Electioneering Communications Organizations and whether the contributions received from Mr. Bloomberg have been appropriately reported to Florida’s Division of Elections[2]. 

Given that the Commission is directed by statute to investigate referrals by the Division of Elections, and the Division of Elections is required to report “any apparent violation” of Chapter 106, Florida Statutes, I believe that the Commission is compelled to begin its investigation without delay since the information regarding the apparent violations (that the Division is required to refer[3]) is publicly available in the news media (see attached articles).

I thank and commend you for your service to the citizens of the State of Florida.

Sincerely,
Jimmy Patronis

To view the letter online, click here.

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About CFO Jimmy Patronis 
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).