Andrew Warren proposes ethics reform in Hillsborough County State Attorney’s race

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Andrew Warren, the former federal prosecutor who is challenging Mark Ober in the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s race, is proposing new ethics and campaign finance reforms for the office that he would lead if elected in November.

Warren pledges not to request or accept campaign contributions from employees in the state attorney’s office.

“I don’t want employees of the State Attorney’s Office or the public wondering whether employees are being evaluated and promoted based on political donations rather than performance of their duties,” Warren says in his press release, issued on Tuesday. He says that as State Attorney he would implement policies mirroring that of the U.S. Department of Justice, which prohibits giving or soliciting gifts between supervisors and subordinates.  “This is a basic standard of ethical conduct that the public rightfully expects.”

That’s undoubtedly a dig at his GOP opponent. Ober has taken in 78 contributions from state attorney office employees in this election cycle, totaling over $25,000.

Warren also promises to prohibit employees from engaging in political activity while on government time. “It cheats the taxpayers, and it is unfair to place that kind of pressure on any subordinate.  It will not happen under my administration.”

And the Tampa Democrat says he won’t accept campaign contributions from any defendant or person under investigation by the State Attorney’s Office, and referenced Attorney General Pam Bondi’s acceptance of $25,000 donation from Donald Trump at the time her office was considering investigating fraud in connection with one of Trump University. Warren adds in his  statement that Bondi formerly worked in the Hillsborough County’s state attorney’s office (ten years with Ober).

“When I worked at the Department of Justice, we couldn’t even accept a sandwich from an attorney representing a subject of an investigation, let alone thousands of dollars from the subject himself.  It’s a huge conflict of interest,” Warren says  “No victim should have to worry if the scales of justice are being tipped based on someone’s political contributions.”

Both candidates have received contributions from attorneys. Ober has made an issue that some of Warren’s contributions have come from out of state. Most of Ober’s contributions from attorneys are those based in Hillsborough County, some of whom have been involved in cases being that have gone  before the state attorney’s office.

“The appearance of a conflict of interest can be as harmful as an actual conflict, especially within our criminal justice system,” Warren says.  “Even where there is no quid pro quo, the mere appearance of impropriety undermines the integrity of the system.  The public’s confidence in a fair and impartial prosecutor is paramount.

Warren kicked off his campaign against Ober in January, and has shown himself to extremely competitive in fundraising against the four-term incumbent. In fact, he’s out raised Ober in campaign contribution in every month but one since getting into the race.

Over did not return SPB’s request for comment.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.