Anti-Democrat PAC digs into Buckhorn's involvement with Clinton fundraiser, comes up empty
When Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn attended a local fundraiser in support of Hillary Clinton, a political action committee that targets Democrats went looking for evidence he misused his office.
It didn't find what it was looking for.
America Rising asked Tampa City Hall for emails sent to or from Buckhorn, his chief of staff, Dennis Rogero, or his public affairs director, Ashley Bauman, about the mayor's participation in a Dec. 2 fundraiser for Clinton at the Thonotosassa home of former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink.
"Disclosure of the requested records would serve the public interest by shedding light on whether the mayor's office used any resources of the city of Tampa to support a 2016 presidential candidate," America Rising vice president Allan Blutstein said in a request dated the same day as the fundraiser.
"I'm certain this is just the beginning of a lot of these types of requests," Buckhorn said Wednesday. "There's a cottage industry of these dirt-diggers."
In response, the city provided America Rising with an email from the Clinton campaign to Buckhorn about the event. He replied three minutes later, asking the campaign to use his personal email, adding, "This email is for city business only."
"I know better," said Buckhorn, who was on the host committee but did not have a speaking role at the fundraiser. "Whatever political and personal things I do, I do them on my own personal email."
The city also included an email exchange where Bauman asked Buckhorn if he was interested in doing a radio interview about the fundraiser while he waited to catch a plane. Buckhorn responded, "Nah."
To America Rising, that "revealed a politician terrified about further publicizing his ties to Secretary Clinton," the PAC's communications director, Jeff Bechdel, said in an email. He included a link to a poll about Clinton's favorability ratings from October, when Vice President Joe Biden was still considering a White House run.
"That is one of the more ridiculous things I have heard in a Republican primary season full of absurd statements," Buckhorn said in response to Bechdel. "Clearly that guy will get nothing but sticks and coal for Christmas.
"I could not talk because I was about to get on a plane," he added, "but rest assured that I am proud to work for and support Secretary Clinton. just I supported President Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996."
Using government resources to take sides in elections is fraught with peril for elected officials, as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was reminded last month.
Here's how Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Jamison (an alum of the Tampa Bay Times) reported the snag that Garcetti ran into:
Democratic elected officials’ recent and predictable endorsements of Hillary Rodham Clinton — now her party’s overwhelming front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination — haven’t been generating many headlines.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proved an awkward exception to the rule Thursday, when his office issued a written endorsement of Clinton and then an hour later followed up with a puzzling, one-line news release reading: “Today’s statement on Hillary Clinton was sent in error.”
A Garcetti spokesman later clarified that the endorsement wasn’t being retracted, but that the mayor’s office shouldn’t have used government resources to distribute the campaign-related announcement. The error message came after The Times asked mayoral aides if the original Clinton endorsement constituted an illegal use of city staff and equipment.
While minor on the scale of possible ethical transgressions, the blunder by Garcetti’s aides quickly became an embarrassment for the mayor. The endorsement stumble went viral on social media, turning a routine political ritual into a national punch line. It also created widespread confusion over Garcetti’s support for Clinton as she was in L.A. fundraising.