Could turmoil over new ethics revelations cripple Gillum’s campaign?

Andrew Gillum
Democratic nominee for FL Governor Andrew Gillum via Twitter

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum faces new revelations from an ethics complaint stemming from national and international trips with lobbyists and questions about who paid for pricey tickets for the blockbuster Broadway show Hamilton, records show.

Those revelations come on top of recent Republican attack ads against Gillum that reference a “corruption probe.”

The turmoil raises questions about whether the Tallahassee mayor’s campaign for governor could be damaged or crippled in the final weeks before the general election.

Gillum, who hopes to become the first black governor in Florida, is quickly appealing to voters.

In a Facebook video Tuesday evening, Gillum stood in the South Florida neighborhood where he grew up in his early years and pledged to voters that he will be honest and forthright.

“I learned early you don’t take anything for free and you certainly don’t take anything for granted. Your word is your bond. And as my grandmother used to say, ‘Always tell the truth because when you tell the truth you don’t have to worry about lies. You don’t have to worry about covering up for lies.’” Gillum said.

He explained in the Facebook video that he went to New York City and saw Hamilton – the show about Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States (and the man on the $10 bill.)  The production has been a smash hit and ticket prices have been in the hundreds of dollars or more across the country.

Gillum was in New York City with others, including then-lobbyist and longtime friend Adam Corey.

Gillum said he got his Hamilton ticket from his brother Marcus and believed that the tickets were reserved by Adam Corey’s friend – real estate developer, Mike Miller. That developer turned out to be an FBI undercover agent looking into corruption in Tallahassee.

Gillum also said in the Facebook video that he assumed his brother had paid for his ticket.

But records released Tuesday suggest a different explanation on who paid.

One text message, from Corey to Gillum, on Aug. 10, 2016, says, “Hey brother. Just checking in with you. Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton at 8 p.m.”

“Awesome news about Hamilton,” Gillum responded.

For those who live outside of the state capital, things can get confusing because two things have been happening at once: An FBI investigation into city government began in 2015, though the public was not aware of it until later. No charges have been filed, and Gillum has said the FBI assured him that he has not been the focus of the investigation.

But there’s also a separate ethics complaint against Gillum, filed by local businessman Erwin Jackson, with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission investigates cases against public officials and interprets ethics laws, among other duties.

That includes laws that prohibit public officials from accepting or soliciting gifts in certain situations.

Ethics investigations are confidential until the commission rules on a matter, and then the records become available for public view.

So far, that hasn’t happened, at least on the ethics commission’s end. When asked about Gillum, ethics spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said she could not confirm or deny anything about an ethics complaint.

She also said public officials can waive the confidentiality requirement and allow information to be made public in an ethics case. In addition, “The commission has no ability to control whether or not parties or witnesses to proceedings speak about the ethics commission or its proceedings,” Stillman said.

Curious voters may want to know how information about the Gillum ethics complaint got out and why the records were released so close to the general election.

What happened is that on October 15, the Florida Commission on Ethics subpoenaed now former lobbyist Adam Corey, commanding him to produce “copies of any and all documents or records related to travel of Adam Corey that included Andrew Gillum during 2016. Your response should include…any items specifically pertaining to a May 2016 trip to Costa Rica and an August 2016 trip to New York City.”

Corey’s lawyer, Chris Kise, decided to release more than 100 pages of records Tuesday, saying that they would ultimately become public.

In addition, Kise said, “As reflected in those records, no criminal activity took place.”

The Gillum campaign issued a statement saying, “These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends. But this isn’t about a Broadway show, it’s about a sideshow, because Ron DeSantis and his associates have no vision, no healthcare plan, and are running the most false, negative campaign in Florida history. Floridians deserve better.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association blasted Gillum in a news release, citing the situation as a “BOMBSHELL: Andrew Gillum Took Hamilton Ticket From Undercover FBI Agent, Then Lied About It At Least Five Times.”

“Floridians can’t trust him to be ethical and they can’t trust him to be honest.”

Republicans have been airing television ads blasting Gillum and referencing the “FBI” among other phrases related to corruption – ads that Gillum’s campaign says are false and constitute libel and slander.

And DeSantis challenged Gillum during Sunday night’s debate on CNN on who purchased the ticket to “Hamilton.”

“Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?” DeSantis asked.

Gillum avoided a direct response, saying, “First of all, I am a grown man. My wife and I take vacations and we pay for our own vacations….I don’ t take free trips from anybody. I’m a hard-working person. I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do, but I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve gotten in my life.”

The two candidates will be debating for a second time Wednesday and it’s likely something will come up about Hamilton, the ethics complaint and the FBI investigation.

 

 

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.
Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

5 COMMENTS

  1. In the wake of the disastrous debate for DeSantis a few nights ago, the dirty tricks brigade will make the most of this. The truly embarrassing thing is that Mr. DeSantis has zero traction or insight into the values, needs, and realities of Floridians, so he must fall back on this nonsense. Allegiance to Donald Trump constitutes an ethics violation of far greater magnitude than a visit to a Broadway show.

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