TAMPA —His mother-in-law first told car dealer Jason Kuhn that he may be breaking the law by reimbursing employees who made donations to a City Council candidate, Kuhn said Thursday.
Kuhn checked state law shortly after the conversation and worried that he may have done something wrong.
"In any event, it didn't look good," he said in an interview in his attorney's office. "I believe very strongly in my name and my character."
Kuhn said he immediately asked employees to return his money.
"It was embarrassing," he said.
State law makes it a felony to give multiple campaign contributions through other people. But after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober decided not to file criminal charges, saying it did not appear Kuhn knowingly violated statutes.
Attorney Steve Romine said Ober was correct to not file charges because the law specifically requires intent.
Questions about the contributions emerged after a St. Petersburg Times analysis published in January 2007 revealed that Tampa City Council candidate Julie Brown collected at least $20,000 from Kuhn, employees at his Honda-Volkswagen dealership and their relatives. Most gave the maximum allowable contribution of $500.
When the Times asked about the contributions last year, Kuhn said, "We don't tell our employees who to give money to."
He did, however, invite Brown to speak at the dealership in December 2006.
"I did not tell them they had to give to Julie Brown's campaign. I told them that I was supporting her, but I did not mandate that they give a dollar to her campaign," Kuhn said Thursday.
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.