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Legal questions raised about flier against Rep. Rachel Burgin's opponent Tom Lee

TAMPA — A Valrico attorney is planning to file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission against state Rep. Rachel Burgin and the committee responsible for an attack mailer aimed at her state Senate opponent, Tom Lee.

Residents in east Hillsborough's Senate District 24 recently received a flier produced by the American People Committee that linked Lee with Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner, who is embroiled in a porn scandal.

Burgin is accused of directing donations to the committee. She has denied the allegations.

Paul Phillips wants the state to sort out the conflicting stories.

"It appears there may be legal issues with the mailer and how the funds were solicited," Phillips said Saturday. "There are questions there that need to be answered."

Phillips said he is basing his complaint on a Miami Herald report in which lobbyist David Ramba said he was told by Burgin to direct his $10,000 donation to Jack Cory, a lobbyist connected to the American People Committee.

Burgin told the Herald that she identified three people to whom Ramba could choose to send his contribution, Cory being one of them.

On Saturday, Burgin said she is not concerned about the complaint.

"The statements originally made were inaccurate to begin with," she said. "You can't take an ethics complaint off a very biased media report."

Also in question is the legality of the American People Committee, a committee of continuous existence, sending mailers when it is not approved for that kind of activity, Phillips said.

Cory did not return phone calls Saturday seeking comment.

Burgin's opponent, Lee, said he is not taking a stand on whether either party is in the wrong.

"There is plenty of time to see if laws have been broken here and if so, to set the record straight," he said.

This is not the first time Phillips, who is a former Hillsborough Republican Party treasurer and has taught a class on philosophy and ethics at St. Petersburg College, has filed an ethics complaint.

Phillips is one of several people who filed a complaint against former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman for failing to disclose a $500,000 gift to his wife from a local businessman.

Earlier this year, Norman pleaded guilty to the Florida Commission on Ethics on the charge.

Phillips said the complaint against Burgin is not personal. Instead, he said he feels he has a responsibility to file ethics complaints when he sees something that may not be right.

"I wish I could file more," Phillips said. "Unfortunately, there are loopholes and things get done all the time in campaign finance that are less than ethical. They may be legal but not ethical."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

Legal questions raised about flier against Rep. Rachel Burgin's opponent Tom Lee 07/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 10:34pm]
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