Wednesday, October 17, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Did Jane Castor flub her initial campaign filings? Nope, says her campaign.

Jane Castor has a campaign website in her run to replace term-limited Bob Buckhorn as Tampa's next mayor.

Remember that as we slip beneath the murk of Florida political campaign finance law and the political shenanigans that occur each cycle.

Castor's campaign filed her first campaign accounting Thursday that covered the month of April.

Castor, the city's former police chief, listed no expenditures for April.

Zero. Zippo. Zilch.

So how is Castor paying for her website that contains software allowing supporters to volunteer and donate?  That costs money, after all.

Here's another fact: Castor also has a political committee named Tampa Strong.

Expenditures from the Tampa Strong  PAC list companies and individuals that do website stuff.

But, and this is important, those companies and individuals also perform other political finance and voter tracking services.

And since Castor announced so late in April, it's very possible vendor invoices for work done in April could be received and paid in early May. That wouldn't become clear until the May filings come out in early June.

Mark Herron, an attorney and election law expert, said campaigns pay for expenditures when they cut the check. It's perfectly legal for expenses authorized in April to be paid for in May as along as the campaign has the necessary funds, he said.

Since Castor raised nearly $34,000 in April–that's a safe bet.

If Castor had paid for her campaign website out of Tampa Strong funds that would violate state election law.  Political committees and campaigns can coordinate at the state and local level on many things, but they can't dance that tight of a tango.

But Castor's campaign emphatically said they didn't do that. And they said the whisper campaign is motivated by a desire to knock the frontrunner down a peg with a complicated red herring ploy.

"The campaign has been compliant with Florida election law. It's not a coincidence that our opponents have resorted to petty and inaccurate attacks on the same day a public poll was released showing Jane garnering 47% of the vote while all other four candidates were in single digits. The Castor for Mayor campaign is focused on a positive message about the issues that matter most to Tampa voters," said Larisa Barreto, a finance consultant for the Castor campaign in a statement through a campaign spokeswoman late Friday.

The poll being referred to was this one.  It was commissioned by Florida Politics. The poll shows Castor getting 47 percent of the vote among likely votes surveyed by robocall on May 10. Second place was former county commissioner Ed Turanchik with 9.7 percent.

The election is March 5. An almost certain runoff will be almost certainly be held on April 23, if the Tampa City Council gives final approval to the change, which it almost certainly will.

What's also almost certain?  Scrutiny of Castor's filings—or whoever else emerges as the front runner in this crowded race— every month between now and then.

Some of that will be fair; some of it will be nonsense.

While we're on this campaign finance expedition, here's a round up of the other candidates totals so far:

Castor's campaign and Tampa Strong scooped up just under $225,000.

Turanchik netted more than $188,000 between his campaign and political committee, Tampa 2020.

City Council member Harry Cohen collected more than $191,000 between his campaign and political committee, Tampa Together.  ($100,000 to the committee comes from his father, Gary Cohen).

Candidates Mike Suarez, Cohen's council colleague, and David Straz, the retired banker and philanthropist, didn't have to report because they announced earlier this month.

Topher Morrison, a small businessman with a personal branding and speaker training business, has raised $36,473. He doesn't have a political committee yet.

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