Andrew Gillum has decided to transfer donations for his new voter registration project to the nonprofit Forward Florida Action instead of his political committee, which has come under fire from federal investigators.

Placing donations into the nonprofit means the public will no longer know for sure how those spend the money since the organization “does not have to disclose its spending.”

This story raised my eyebrows because who does not find it suspicious that after the feds demanded records of Gillum’s campaign, he moves money to a nonprofit?

The Subpoena

Let me first give you a little history. Unfortunately, no one can confirm or deny anything in the subpoena or provide detailed information.

The FBI subpoenaed the records earlier this year. The Tampa Bay Times wrote the subpoena demanded “’documents, electronically stored information, or objects’ dating back to January 2015 about Gillum, his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and his political committee, Forward Florida.” It also requested information on these people:

  • John H. Jackson, the president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit. Gillum was listed as a board member on the nonprofit’s website until March 2017. Also on the subpoena is a related organization: Opportunity to Learn Action Fund. Gillum was president of that nonprofit as recently as 2017, according to its tax documents.
  • Donald Sussman, an investor and philanthropist who donated $1.5 million to Gillum’s bid for governor. Harris Parnell, a donor adviser who has worked for Sussman, also is named.
  • Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a long-time friend and adviser to Gillum who is currently the CEO of the National Black Justice Commission, a black LGBTQ advocacy group. She served with Gillum on the board of the Schott Foundation. Her public relations firm, P&P Communications, is also listed in the subpoena.

Lettman-Hicks became “a point of controversy” in Gillum’s campaign because he “reported income in 2017 of $71,000 from Lettman-Hicks’ firm on a state financial disclosure report” while “his campaign rented space from her Tallahassee public relations firm, P&P Communications, at a cost of nearly $45,000.” However, Gillum never once explained “the nature of his work with Lettman-Hicks.”

Gillum kept Lettman-Hicks by his side as she took charge for his new voter registration project. The state’s Democratic party pays her $10,400 a month, which makes her the party’s highest-paid employee.

Changing to Nonprofit

Now The Tampa Bay Times has reported that Gillum moved money from his political committee and will place future donations for his new voter registration venture into a new nonprofit.

Gillum claimed he “raised $800,000 in a few weeks including $250,000” after the news came out about the subpoena.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that amount did not show up on any documents, which only showed he raised $3,900 in June.

Weird, huh? So why would Gillum take this course of action? From The Tampa Bay Times:

Gillum moved $500,000 from the political committee to the nonprofit last month, according to campaign finance reports filed Wednesday.

What Gillum does with that money will largely be shielded from public view. Unlike his political committee, which is required to itemize every expenditure and report it to the state each month, the nonprofit does not have to disclose its spending.

Nor will the nonprofit have to account for where it gets its money. The organization’s annual tax documents will be public, but those include far less information and it will be more than a year before they’re made available.

Gillum spokesman Joshua Karp explained this route would allow the nonprofit “to directly spend money on voter registration efforts” unlike the political committee.

Maybe Gillum did this to protect money for the project since the feds began an investigation into his political committee. Or perhaps he chose to do this so he can spend the money however he wants.

Who knows. It just seems a little suspicious to me.

 
 
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