Andrew Gillum‘s nascent campaign has grossly overstated the number of donors who have contributed to the Tallahassee mayor’s bid to be Florida governor, a review of campaign finance documents shows.
On Friday, Gillum’s campaign bragged that it was “excited to have more than 7,000 contributors,” according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.
However, after FloridaPolitics.com reviewed the most recent campaign finance reports and asked the Gillum campaign why its numbers showed a significantly different number than what it was touting, Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, admitted that the campaign had “slightly misstated the total in our press release.”
Slightly, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.
Both FloridaPolitics.com’s review and Gillum’s campaign agree that the campaign and his “Forward Florida” committee has received a combined 6,933 total contributions, according to the most campaign finance reports.
However, when duplicates are removed from the list of contributions, Gillum received donations from approximately 5,300 people. (FloridaPoltiics.com’s count has Gillum with 5,586 donors. See below for a spreadsheet listing all of Gillum’s donors through May 31.)
Either way, it’s difference of about 30%.
This is a major discrepancy for a campaign that has been dogged by criticisms of being the gang that can’t shoot straight.
In the months before Gillum launched his campaign for governor, the Tallahassee mayor had been sending several campaign-related and political emails through his City Hall account – revealing an ethical lapse that was dangerously close to violating Florida law.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, many of those emails involved city staff and interns setting up meetings and other correspondence, both political and campaign in nature – several campaign-related and coming from private accounts during working hours.
Florida ethics rules prohibit public officials from using their position, staff or resources for personal gain. They also forbid public employees from campaigning for candidates while on taxpayer’s dime.
The Democrat amassed more than 13,000 emails coming from the Mayor’s Office between January 2016 to March 2017, outlining what reporter Jeff Schweers described as “a busy and confusing intersection between the personal, the political and the professional.”
Such emails muddy the ethical waters between city and political business, and public employees versus campaign staff, in addition to Gillum’s work as the YEO Network director for the People for the American Way.
The Democrat report featured one email to Angie Whitaker, Gillum’s City Hall assistant, illustrates the gray area: “It can get confusing, but as I have indicated to my PFAWF staff, that I am joining this call as a YEO members and in my role as an elected official – which is the capacity under which my statements were made.”
That email, sent in September, came from his PFAW account and was cc’d to two of Gillum’s top staffers, Chief of Staff Dustin Daniels and Jamie Van Pelt.
However, the ethical lapse seems to go beyond emails, and includes software bought by the Mayor’s Office — using the City of Tallahassee’s money — from a Democratic Party vendor. The emails became public after it was discovered that Gillum purchased software from NGP VAN, a company that produces software and new political media for Democrats and Democratic campaigns.
Since entering the governor’s race, the email issue has dogged Gillum’s campaign, forcing him to return $5,000 to the city, with an apology for unintentional “human error.”
Leon County Republicans have called for Gillum’s resignation over the use of city resources and staff for his political ambition, and the Leon County Sheriff’s office has been investigating whether the political emails and software paid for with taxpayer dollars violate Florida law.
“We’re still getting subpoenaed documents back from the email company and we’ve got to go through all those,” LCSO spokesman Grady Jordan told the Democrat.
The Mayor’s Office promises to cooperate fully in the investigation.
“Our office focuses solely on helping the mayor do the job that he was elected to do, including serving as an ambassador for the city of Tallahassee across the country. Attempts or ideas that detract from that reality are simply misplaced and misunderstood,” said Daniels, Gillum’s Chief of Staff, in an April statement. “We continue to do all we can to faithfully maximize our efforts at the city, and ultimately work toward our goal of moving our community forward.”
Nevertheless, emails show a series exchanges between staff – through private email accounts – and such political entities as the Leon Democratic Executive Committee, the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee. Many of them were for scheduling the mayor’s appearances and making travel arrangements to political events.
Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.