candidates fail to submit mandatory financial reports | Florida News

By CORBIN BOLIES, Fresh Take Florida, Fresh Take Florida, a University of Florida news service

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Dozens of political candidates running for Congress across Florida have failed to file financial reports in Washington that would publicly reveal key details about their personal wealth, debts and jobs, such as l ‘demands the US House.

The missing documents mean voters so far have little clue as to where these candidates – 22 Republicans and 15 Democrats – earned their money, where they invested or to whom they owe personal debts. It was to be submitted to the Capitol in Washington.

Seven of the candidates were vying for the vacant seat in the southeastern 20th Congressional District of Florida, where the primaries were held on Tuesday. The rest were running for election next year.

The documents – known as the Financial Disclosure Report – must be filed annually by all Congressmen or Congressional candidates in mid-May or within 30 days once they spend or raise at least $ 5,000. during their campaigns, and no more than 30 days before an election, including a primary, under congressional rules.

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The candidates’ explanations included lost reports in the mail forgetting they were due, technical issues and confusion over Congress requirements. One candidate said she was concerned about a recent divorce and would quickly send her overdue report to Washington.

Enforcement of disclosures is notoriously lax, but failure to file a report or include false information in one is a federal crime punishable by up to one year in prison and civil and criminal fines of nearly 125,000. $. The House Ethics Committee may also impose an additional penalty.

A survey of 162 incumbents and challengers in upcoming Florida congressional races found 96 politicians met threshold requirements under the law, but 38 – more than a third – had no such reports yet. on file with the office of the Clerk of the House.

How did applicants who conscientiously submitted their documents on time submit financial reports?

“We have read the Federal Elections Act,” said Yolanda Brown, political consultant for State Representative Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale, who is running for the Congressional primary next week. Another Democrat in the race, Barbara Sharief, said a briefing package she received from the government when she applied for candidacy contained clear instructions. She sent her report to Washington – twice – in July.

In total, the missing reports included candidates in 18 congressional races across Florida. Overdue reports prevent voters from knowing whether a candidate is rich, broke, heavily in debt, or heavily invested in companies with special interests. The reports also list gifts or travel paid for by others and positions with outside organizations.

“Voters have a right to know whether a candidate’s personal interest will conflict with the public interest,” said Kedric Payne, senior ethics director and general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit organization. Washington nonprofit. “If candidates do not appear to be completely transparent before being elected, voters have no guarantee that the candidate will be transparent when he takes office.”

Disclosure reports are not linked to campaign finance documents filed separately with the Federal Election Commission; these identify campaign donors and record where candidates spend political money.

Among the Congress candidates with overdue papers:

• Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, running among 16 Democrats for the vacant seat previously held by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Who died earlier this year. The longtime CEO of Trinity Health Care Services, a home health care company, has loaned her own campaign $ 3.7 million of the total of $ 3.8 million she received in contributions, although she has already repaid herself over $ 2 million, including nearly $ 20,000 last month. The government previously gave Cherfilus-McCormick extra time to submit her financial reports in her failed 2018 primary election, but she never submitted them either. Cherfilus-McCormick said in a brief telephone interview on Thursday that his campaign was submitting its report.

• State Representative Omari Hardy, D-Mangonia Park, a young progressive first elected to Florida House last year, who raised about $ 172,400 in the 20th Congressional District. As state lawmaker, Hardy filed a financial disclosure report last month with the Florida Ethics Commission – a report that revealed he was nearly $ 100,000 in debt – but it didn’t ‘not affect its obligation to submit federal documents to Washington as well. Hardy acknowledged the oversight and said he would submit his own. “We are working on this,” he said.

• Brady Duke, a former Navy SEAL sniper and minister who is posing as one of five Republicans in the 7th Congressional District near Sanford, to topple Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who was first elected times in 2016. Duke has raised nearly $ 515,000 so far for next year. primary. Duke did not return phone messages or emails for two days to his campaign offices, ministry or wife.

• Laura Loomer, the brandishing Republican conservative who runs in the 11th Congressional District west of Orlando, who has raised more than $ 207,000 so far for next year’s primary. Loomer is running against incumbent Daniel Webster, R-Fla. A previous financial report filed by Loomer in 2019 – when she ran unsuccessfully in the 21st Congressional District – indicated that she had earned $ 118,633 in donations for activism and investigative journalism, and that ‘she said she owed loans between $ 25,000 and $ 65,000. Loomer did not return any phone messages or emails for two days to his campaign address or lawyer.

• Republican Carla Spalding, candidate for the 23rd Congressional District of Southeast Florida, who has raised more than $ 886,000 so far for next year’s primary. The seat is held by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. A report Spalding filed before she lost an election last year to Wasserman Schultz found in income of $ 57,671 – including $ 22,500 from her own campaign – and student loans of between $ 50,000 and $ 100. $ 000.

Spalding Treasurer Sean Williams said Thursday he plans to send his report to Washington as soon as a technical issue is resolved between the House Clerk’s Office and the Federal Election Commission, where politicians fill out forms to declare their candidacies. Candidates were instructed to file reports directly with the clerk of Congress, not through the FEC.

The House Clerk’s office said on Friday it was not aware of any communication issues between him and the FEC.

• Republican Gregory Musselwhite, also a candidate for next week’s primary, also blamed an issue between the FEC and the House Clerk’s office which he said prevented his campaign from being informed that a report by financial disclosure was due. He said he sent the report to Washington on Friday after a reporter asked him about it.

• Rebekah Jones, the former data officer and state Department of Health whistleblower who upset Governor Ron DeSantis over the allegations of the number of infections and faces a hacking charge over the allegations that she illegally downloaded government files after being fired. Jones, who has raised nearly $ 113,000 so far, is running as a Democrat in the 1st Congressional District of the Panhandle, trying to topple Republican Representative Matt Gaetz. His report could reveal new details about his fundraising efforts to pay for his legal fees and expenses associated with posting pandemic data on his own website.

Jones said Thursday her report must have been delayed by the US Postal Service: “We sent it by post so I don’t know what the delay is,” she said. She added, “There is nothing exciting about it. We own two cars, no stocks, and have a ton of student loan debt. “

Jones’ campaign crossed the $ 5,000 threshold in early July, according to a list of his contributions filed with the FEC.

Some applicants were given extra time to submit their reports and were not counted among the 38 whose reports were missing. Five politicians who had been granted additional time but who also missed their new deadlines.

One of the 38 candidates was neither a Republican nor a Democrat: Leonard Serratore, who is not affiliated with any party and has raised nearly $ 14,000, running in next week’s special election. Serratore also said his campaign was never told a report was due, but he filed one on Friday. “I just filed a report right now,” he said. “They had problems.

Republican Martin Hyde, trying to topple Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., In Sarasota, bristled with questions about his missing report. He confused the Congressional disclosure with his FEC campaign finance report he submitted earlier this month.

“I don’t like this kind of absurd ‘fake news’ and I govern myself accordingly,” he said in an email.

When a reporter explained the differences between the statements, Hyde said his campaign would take care of it and asked the reporter to stop contacting him.

Cindy Banyai, an oppressed candidate for the Democratic primary for Florida’s 19th Congressional District in Naples, admitted she missed her deadline and accused a divorce earlier this year. “Being a working-class single mother running for Congress is tough! She said in an email.

She subsequently provided a journalist with a draft of her financial statement.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service from the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. The reporter can be contacted at [email protected]

Copyright 2021 Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Marianne R. Winn