U.S. Rep. Ross Spano has not only resisted calls for his resignation amid a campaign finance scandal, he is already laying the groundwork for a re-election campaign.
The Dover Republican filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday declaring his intention to run again in 2020.
Spano’s paperwork also designated two committees to spend on his behalf: Take Back the House 2020 and Miller Spano Webber Victory.
Spano is under fire for $180,000 in potentially illegal campaign contributions he received from two friends during the 2018 campaign. Already a complaint has been filed with election regulators and it is possible that law enforcement or Congressional ethics investigators could probe the donations as well, the Tampa Bay Times previously reported.
Trouble began for Spano days before the election, when the Times reported that Spano failed to file the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates running for Congress. He turned them in soon after, for the first time revealing that he had received $94,500 in loans from two friends in 2018, Cary Carreno and Karen Hunt.
The timing of those loans coincided with loans Spano reportedly made to his campaign from “personal funds,” the Times reported.
His attorney Elliot Berke acknowledged in a letter to the FEC that Spano he borrowed $180,000 from Carreno and Hunt last year, and then loaned his campaign $167,000. If those loans are considered by authorities to be campaign contributions, then they would far exceed federal campaign finance limits of $2,700 per election.
The letter insisted he didn’t attempt to flout campaign finance laws and was acting on the bad advice of his campaign treasurer, who was later fired by Carreno.
Spano, a lawyer and former state House member, defeated Democrat Kristen Carlson in November for the U.S. House seat from District 15 in eastern Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. Carlson has called for a FBI investigation into Spano’s campaign.
Campaign spokeswoman Sandi Poreda said Friday that Spano repaid his two friends at the end of 2018 by taking out a bank loan. She had previously said Spano would pay them back by selling his law firm.
The bank loan was not included in Spano’s end of year federal election report, though that report did show Spano’s campaign paid Elliot Berke’s Washington, D.C., law firm $3,210 in December. Poreda said the May campaign finance report will reflect the repayment of the loan.
It is unclear how Spano was able to secure a loan to pay off his debts and Poreda did not elaborate. He reported a household income last year of $72,500, assets ranging from $268,000 and $595,000 (mostly by supposing his law firm is worth between $250,000 and $500,000) and student loan debt between $100,000 and $250,000.
His Congressional salary this year will be $174,000.
Spano has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
“We’re not going to discuss any of the FEC matters until we have some feedback/guidance from that entity,” Poreda said Friday.
Spano has also not explained why he waited until November — four months after the deadline — to file his financial disclosure report with Congress. That report could also be problematic for Spano, as it lists the campaign contributions from his friends as loans. Filing a false financial disclosure statement could lead to a fine of $50,000 or up to five years in prison.
Spano previously suggested to the Times that the loans he made to his campaign could have come from his wife. That turned out not to be the case.
Despite calls from Democrats to step down, Spano has joined the rest of the new class of freshman lawmakers in Congress and is settling into new committee assignments.
After lying low at first, Spano emerged on Fox News this week (where he wasn’t asked about his campaign finances) and has already become a reliable Republican attack dog on illegal immigration and climate change legislation.