‘This is a victory for the good ones…’
(Elizabeth Koh, Miami Herald) An ethics complaint against former Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum is moving forward after state officials found probable cause Friday that Gillum violated ethics laws by allegedly accepting gifts during trips with lobbyists in 2016.
Gillum was among the Lefts’ crop of “rising stars” in the 2018 elections, drawing massive amounts of campaign and super-PAC support from billionaire investors like George Soros and Tom Steyer, who sought to solidify the battleground state as blue territory.
Although Gillum wound up narrowly losing the race to then-Rep. Ron DeSantis—despite a closely watched post-election recount—Floridians may have been duped by another Soros-funded effort, a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to some 1.6 million felons (10 percent of the state’s voting-age population), which will likely tip the balance permanently leftward.
However, it was Gillum’s alleged personal ethics violations, not his association with Soros’s new-world-order cabal, that ultimately may have derailed his bid to become the Sunshine State’s first black governor.
Though records in the case have not yet been made public by the state Commission on Ethics, Gillum’s lawyer Barry Richard said after the closed-door hearing at the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee that the case would next go before an administrative law judge, likely in the next 45 to 60 days.
“We’re going to have a full evidentiary hearing before an independent judge. It’ll be open to the public, and everybody can decide for themselves,” he told reporters. “There for sure will be no settlement.”
Tallahassee businessman Erwin Jackson, who filed the complaint, said the commission had found probable cause on five of six counts, and cast the decision to carry the case forward as a success: “This is a victory for the good ones,” he said.
Gillum did not attend Friday’s hearing.
Jackson had filed a complaint over trips Gillum took with lobbyist and former friend Adam Corey before Gillum launched his run for governor. Jackson, a longtime critic of city hall, alleged that the former mayor had received gifts from Corey above a state $100 limit on trips to Costa Rica and New York City.
Florida law prohibits public officials from accepting gifts over $100 from lobbyists or vendors, though family members have exceptions.
The trips, which occurred amid an FBI investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee, became a flashpoint in the last days of Gillum’s unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Gillum and his wife had traveled to Costa Rica in May 2016 with friends including Corey—who became a nexus in the FBI probe—and lawyer and lobbyist Sean Pittman, one of Gillum’s closest political advisers. The Gillums stayed in a villa for multiple nights.
Gillum also traveled that year to New York City as part of his job then with the People for the American Way Foundation, where he went on multiple excursions with his brother Marcus, Corey, and at least two of the FBI agents tied to the case. Among the trips in question was a boat tour around the Statue of Liberty and tickets to the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Gillum also stayed for one night in his brother’s room at the Millennium Hilton in the city.
After Gillum won the Democratic primary, he released records that he said indicated he paid for his own expenses on both trips. He also repeatedly said he was told by the FBI that he was not a subject or target of the investigation and denied any wrongdoing.
(No charges have been brought against Gillum in the FBI case, which led to the indictment of former city commissioner Scott Maddox on bribery and racketeering charges in December.)
Asked about his dealings with Corey, Gillum had also characterized Corey during the campaign as a former friend who had misled him. But the state ethics complaint drew fresh attention in the closing days of the election, when Corey’s lawyer, Chris Kise, released hundreds of pages of records he said were given to investigators as part of the case.
Those records showed the degree to which undercover FBI agents had looked into Gillum, arranging some of the excursions for Gillum and his brother on the New York trip and procuring the “Hamilton” tickets. They also showed that one of the agents contributed to a fundraiser for the former mayor in Tallahassee.
Gillum, despite his loss, has remained talked-about as a potential 2020 power player, buoyed by his fundraising influence and volunteer lists in swing-state Florida.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
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