Gillum ripped by Florida campaign donor for unspent campaign money
TALLAHASSEE — An influential Florida donor took shots on Thursday at Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum for leaving millions of dollars in the bank ahead of his narrow loss last November to eventual winner Ron DeSantis.
John Morgan, a well-known Orlando trial attorney who successfully backed an initiative to legalize medical marijuana, chided Gillum on Twitter for not spending money given to the Tallahassee mayor’s political committee. Forward Florida, which raised nearly $37 million during the run-up to the 2018 election, had nearly $3 million on hand heading into Election Day.
“You lost by 30k votes and kept the money from people who trusted you so that now you can go around the state with a staff preparing for your next run,” Morgan tweeted. “I will tell you that is a huge mistake. Your donors are very disappointed. This is a huge ethical lapse. Give it to charity not yourself. #PoliticsAreAllTheSame.”
Gillum, who has aligned himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, was seen as a rising star in Democratic politics after he pulled off an upset in Florida’s primary and nearly ended two decades of GOP power in the governor’s mansion.
While his initial primary campaign did not match the fundraising prowess of other Democrats, Forward Florida pulled in substantial donations in the weeks before the November election. Morgan’s law firm, whose motto “For the People” saturates radio and television airwaves in the state, contributed $250,000 to Gillum’s political committee.
In Florida there are caps on donations to individual campaigns but not to political committees. While there are restrictions on committee spending, the rules are relatively easy to sidestep.
Morgan’s swipe at Gillum came after the trial lawyer had posted a tweet about Amendment 4, the voter-approved measure that restored voting rights to former felons. The Republican-controlled Legislature last week approved a bill that required former felons to pay all court-ordered restitution, fines and fees to be allowed the right to vote.
Morgan tweeted that Gillum should take his unspent campaign money “and use it ALL to pay the financial restitution now owed by freed felons to vote. This poll tax is unconscionable. They paid a price & are now being asked to pay again.”
While nothing in state law would prohibit that, the expenditure would subject Gillum’s committee to significant federal taxes because it‘s not an allowable expense for political committees said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee attorney well versed in campaign law.