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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House party invitation for St. Petersburg mayoral hopeful Scott Wagman may violate state election law



ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayoral hopeful Scott Wagman could be in trouble over a house party invitation.

The invitation sent out for a February event hosted by St. Petersburg attorney Lucas Fleming does not have a political disclaimer as required by state election law.


Wagman said he did not review the invite before it was sent out and was unaware that Fleming had pulled his campaign colors and logo from his Web site.

Could a fine be in Wagman's or Fleming's future?

"It depends upon the wording of the invitation," Jennifer K. Davis, a spokeswoman for the department of state, wrote in an e-mail. "If the invitation was merely a meet and greet and did not contain express words of advocacy for the candidate, then it would not be a political advertisement. Only political advertisements need political disclaimers. If it was a political advertisement and was not known by the candidate, the person who hosted the party (not the candidate) would have needed to place a disclaimer on it. The candidate can only be 'guilty' if the violation is 'willful.' "

Meanwhile, the potential election violation has put a new light on a minifeud brewing between Wagman and a volunteer for City Council member Jamie Bennett's mayoral campaign.

Peter Schorsch is Bennett's co-campaign manager. He has been taking swipes at Wagman on his blog in recent weeks. He wrote that Wagman will turn the Police Department over to the Sheriff's Office, a statement Wagman refuted. He also claimed that Wagman's candidacy would be ignored if it wasn't for his deep pockets.

Now, it has gotten more serious.

Schorsch recently blogged about the invitation

Then he contacted Jim Donelon, president of the Disston Heights Civic Association, to suggest that Donelon file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission, according to Donelon.

Schorsch disputes Donelon's claim.

But Donelon said he has no reason to lie about who gave him the invite. "I've got his fingerprints on it if he ever wants to deny that he gave it to me," he said.

Donelon said he does not plan to file a complaint because he was outraged that Schorch wasn't willing to do his own dirty work.

"If they feel that strongly about it, they should file a complaint themselves," Donelon said.

Bennett said he would ask Schorsch to stop spreading lies about Wagman. He also said that he didn't know anything about the invite squabble.

Wagman said Bennett's campaign is simply worried he will win.

"People are known by the company they keep," he added. "I am proud of the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. ... Jamie has chosen to surround himself with a different sort of people."

Bennett had his own ambiguous troubles with election law in January.

Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:49am]


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