Anthony Pedicini is taking it on the chin right now.
The Tampa-based political consultant is being dragged through the mud he otherwise expertly throws because he — let’s be honest here — is doing what almost every other successful political consultant in the state does.
As Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Tribune details, mailers touting Tampa City Council candidate Jackie Toledo were produced by the same Sarasota print shop owner who printed Toledo’s mailers and are on message with her campaign, touting her experience as a traffic engineer.
Campaign workers for Toledo’s opponent, Guido Maniscalco, say that’s evidence there are ties between the committee and Pedicini, a claim Toledo and Pedicini have repeatedly denied.
By law, candidates cannot coordinate their campaigns with a PAC.
Bryan Farris, Maniscalco’s campaign manager, said Pedicini is using the PAC to conceal who is donating to help Toledo. He questioned why Moving Tampa Forward’s report fails to list any expenditures even though the committee has paid for at least five mailers.
“My guess is they’ll amend when it’s too late for the public to know,” Farris said. “It’s obvious Ms. Toledo’s campaign is being supported by shady money that her consultant Anthony Pedicini obviously controls.”
Toledo said she has never heard of Smith, the one donor to Moving Tampa Forward. She said Pedicini assured her he is not connected with the group. Her initial contact with Pedicini’s firm, Strategic Image Management, was with Fred Piccolo.
But Toledo admitted that she considered firing Pedicini after reports linked him with the PAC and attack mailers but decided against it because she thought it would disrupt her campaign too close to the election. She said, however, she will not use Pedicini for future campaigns.
Pedicini’s real offense here? He got sloppy.
The committee’s registration lists the committee’s sole officer as Auston Cianflone and gives its address as 4010 N Lois Ave. in Tampa — an address that belongs to the Hawks Landing student apartments for Hillsborough Community College.
HCC does not have a student named Auston Cianflone, college spokeswoman Ashley Carl said. It does have a student named Auston Molina. There is an Auston Molina from Tampa whose Facebook connections include two people named Cianflone.
And that Auston Molina also has listed on his Facebook page that his noteworthy “Moments from the Year” in 2014 included “Anthony Pedicini’s 35th Birthday Pub Crawl,” with a link to a photo gallery that includes tagged photos of Molina and Pedicini, who is 35 and works as Toledo’s paid campaign consultant.
For his part, Pedicini said he has nothing to do with Moving Tampa Forward and has not seen the mailers.
“The only person that I’m working for in the District 6 race is Jackie Toledo,” said Pedicini, whose firm has been paid $33,755 by Toledo’s campaign for advertising and campaign materials.
Of course no one believes Pedicini isn’t, at some level, aware of what the committee is doing.
Because where there is smoke, the local media is lighting Pedicini on fire.
Thursday afternoon, political analyst Chris Ingram derided the “amateurish nature of those involved with the mailings demonstrates a desperate attempt to win a political race at any cost. From the sloppiness of the organization of the group and its sole out-of-town funding source, to the hard-to-believe responses from Pedicini, and the fact that Toledo’s campaign used the same printer as Moving Tampa Forward, the entire operation looks too cute by half.”
Anthony Pedicini does not need me to defend him. But Danielson, Ingram and the rest of the local media sound a lot like Inspector Renault in Casablanca, shocked, shocked to learn that there is negative campaigning in a City Council race.
One almost feels sorry for the poor City of Tampa having to endure the invasion of an outside political committee and its whopping $7,000 bank balance. How will the embattled voters of West Tampa overcome the barrage of a single postcard that likely it paid for?
Listen, Anthony Pedicini tends to throw more than his fair share of interceptions, especially lately. But every gunslingin’ quarterback usually does.
And it’s not like I personally haven’t called him out on his mistakes. After the last election cycle, I listed Pedicini, who was an usher in our wedding, as one of the biggest losers of the cycle.
But to criticize him because he’s playing by the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it or because he’s injecting some bare-knuckled punches into a political street fighting is silly.
What Pedicini should do is, having had Toledo say she would not work with him in the future, fire his client for making such a ridiculous statement to the press in the heat of the campaign.
Better yet, he should stop mucking around in these small-ball municipal races and focus more on the legislative races with which he has had so much success.