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Scott Wagman takes the bait, will fight FEC over his illegal Google ads

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
Just finished up an interview with Zach Rodgers, of Clickz Network, who tells me Scott Wagman has decided to contest the complaint filed with Florida Election Commission over his illegal ads on Google and Facebook.

From March on Politics: In response to a complaint from the former campaign manager for one of Wagman’s opponents in the race, the Elections Commission is considering whether the ads were illegal because they don’t contain the required disclaimer stating they were approved by the candidate and paid for by the campaign. State law requires that language on all political ads.

The problem, said Wagman campaign manager Mitch Kates, is that it’s impossible to put the disclaimer on the Google or Facebook ads because there isn’t room. The ad text can be only 68 characters on Google, not nearly enough for the disclaimer.

Wagman will argue that the links aren’t really ads, but only links to the real ads, which have the legal disclaimer on them, Kates said. He said the campaign doesn’t pay for the links unless a user clicks on them.

The Elections Commission offered Wagman a deal to sign a consent order agreeing not to use the ads and to pay a $250 fine.

Kates said the campaign has stopped using the ads but will reject the settlement. That means the commission will investigate the matter and may expose Wagman to a potentially greater fine, but Kates said Wagman is prepared to accept that possibility.

“At the end of the day Scott felt it was important,” he said.

“If he [accepted the consent order] it could create a precedent that could effectively eliminate all forms of Google and Facebook and other such ad links, and that would impede on people’s First Amendment rights of free speech.”

Kates said he believes some free speech advocacy groups may join the campaign in opposing the Elections Commission’s decision.

St. Petersburg Times coverage here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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