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Parties exchange claims of flouting rules on elections

A Morgan & Morgan billboard promoting the law firm’s best-known member, former Gov. Charlie Crist, stands a short city block from the Governor’s Mansion.

STEVE BOUSQUET | Times

A Morgan & Morgan billboard promoting the law firm’s best-known member, former Gov. Charlie Crist, stands a short city block from the Governor’s Mansion.

Both political parties accused their opponents Tuesday of violating election laws. It's clearly a harbinger for the 2014 campaign for governor of Florida.

The Republican Party of Florida lodged a formal complaint with the Florida Elections Commission, alleging that the Morgan & Morgan law firm's use of Democratic candidate Charlie Crist's face on billboards is an unreported in-kind campaign contribution, the value of which far exceeds the $3,000 limit on such donations. RPOF executive director Juston Johnson called the billboards "a reportable contribution. Failure to report the billboards is a clear breach of the law and a promise to work 'for the people.' "

John Morgan's response cited the billboards' owner: "CBS was ordered to take the boards down months ago. These boards are not being paid for. In the billboard world, many times old boards are left up for many months until they can be sold. They don't like vacant space."

He added: "Plus, I am happy the RPOF must think our firm is a help in this election. We take it as a huge compliment."

Democrats, meanwhile, claimed that the disclaimer on a new TV spot featuring Gov. Rick Scott violates the election laws. The Florida Democratic Party sent letters to TV stations throughout the state, demanding the spot be taken off the air until the disclaimer is fixed. Scott's ad, part of a $2.2 million statewide ad buy, ends with the words "sponsored by Let's Get to Work," as a female announcer repeats the words.

Democrats allege that the ad was purchased by Let's Get to Work when it was an electioneering communications organization or ECO, which would require a disclaimer that includes the words "paid electioneering communication" and the purchaser's name and address. "They didn't read the Division of Elections manual," said Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.

Republicans say it's Democrats who can't read clearly. Scott's campaign claimed Democrats have their facts wrong and that the TV ad buy was made after Let's Get to Work was converted from an ECO to a political committee on March 6. An expenditure of $2 million for TV time is listed as paid on March 11 to Multi Media Services of Alexandria, Va.

Watchdog lodges ethics claim

Remember that fake Alex Sink website that the National Republican Congressional Committee created, which fooled at least one Sink supporter into donating money to the GOP? It seems the NRCC created a bunch of similar sites about other Democratic candidates, and now Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, has filed a complaint against NRCC Chairman Greg Walden with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

"Rep. Walden and the NRCC have become online scam artists, tricking people out of their campaign donations. Rep. Walden's support for such activity violates House ethics rules, and OCE needs to act quickly to protect the House's credibility," CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said.

The response from NRCC communications director Andrea Bozek: "This is nothing more than a publicity stunt by an extreme liberal front group for Democrats to bolster their deflated supporters after the Democrats' defeat in last week's special election."

Mack puts on lobbying hat

Former Rep. Connie Mack joined a lobbying firm last year after an unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson, but under rules he was barred from actual lobbying. Now he officially takes on the lobbying title, with the Hill newspaper reporting that he has filed to work on behalf of American Task Force Argentina.

Obama to make Florida trip

President Barack Obama is coming back to Florida on Thursday. He'll start with a speech on the economy at Valencia College in Orlando, then travel to Miami for fundraising events for the DNC and DCCC.

Adam C. Smith contributed.

Parties exchange claims of flouting rules on elections 03/18/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 9:20pm]
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