Ross Spano’s campaign under House Ethics Committee probe

There are also indications Spano is replacing long-time political adviser Brock Mikosky | William March column
The House Ethics Committee indirectly confirmed this week that it is reviewing allegations of illegal campaign financing by the 2018 campaign of Republican Rep. Ross Spano of Dover. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
The House Ethics Committee indirectly confirmed this week that it is reviewing allegations of illegal campaign financing by the 2018 campaign of Republican Rep. Ross Spano of Dover. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Oct. 1, 2019|Updated Oct. 15, 2019

The House Ethics Committee, chaired by a Florida Democrat, Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, indirectly confirmed this week that it is reviewing allegations of illegal campaign financing by the 2018 campaign of Republican Rep. Ross Spano of Dover.

Meanwhile, as he heads into his re-election battle, there are indications Spano is replacing his long-time political adviser Brock Mikosky, who ran the 2018 campaign.

In a news release, Deutch and ranking Republican committee member Rep. Kenny Marchant of Texas said they “have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding” Spano and that the committee will announce its course of action by Nov. 14.

Deutch and spokesmen have not previously commented on whether the committee was looking into the issue.

In the release, they said disclosure of the extension was mandatory under House rules that require it within a certain period of time after referral of a complaint. They said the extension doesn’t mean any decision regarding truth of the accusations.

Complaints to the Federal Elections Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics have alleged that Spano borrowed $180,000 from two friends and illegally loaned the proceeds to his campaign. Spano later said he obtained a bank loan to repay his two friends, but another complaint says he hasn’t reported details of that bank loan to the FEC, as campaign finance regulations require.

Spano reported the loans to the FEC after news reports revealed them, and has since acknowledged the FEC is investigating.

In a statement on his web site, Spano said the committee “is reviewing my self-reported filings with the FEC. I think this is a step in the right direction as I want to ensure my record of transparency and accountability is publicly highlighted. While I have doubts about the timing and motive behind this inquiry, I am confident the process will ultimately lean in my favor.”

Neither Mikosky nor the Spano campaign would say whether Mikosky will be Spano’s general consultant in 2020 as he was in 2018. He also worked for Spano’s three previous state House campaigns.

When the allegations of illegal campaign loans arose after the 2018 election, Spano said in a letter to the FEC that he and his lenders believed the loans were legal “based on the consultations they had at the time.” Spano didn’t name anyone but fired and replaced his campaign treasurer.

A national political consulting firm, Axiom Strategies, has since hired Mikosky and bought out his former firm.

Asked whether he’ll be general consultant for Spano’s 2020 race, Mikosky said, “I’m not going to confirm or deny that,” and added, “I’m still involved. … I am still part of the team.”

Campaign spokeswoman Sandi Poreda said via email, “No definite decision yet on this.”

CD 15 candidates on impeachment

Spano’s two Democratic opponents both favor the impeachment investigation and one, Alan Cohn, favors impeachment itself, while Spano in a fundraising email called the investigation “totally bogus.”

“The Democrats in Washington have lost their minds,” Spano said. “They’re literally grasping at straws.”

A vocal Trump ally while in Congress, Spano then said Democrats “are targeting every Conservative they can, including me,” and asked for campaign donations.

State Rep. Adam Hattersley sent an email to supporters recounting his Navy service and said Congress “needs to get all the facts … (about) abuses of power that put our national security at risk -- regardless of politics.”

Beckner to run for clerk

Former county commissioner and civil service board head Kevin Beckner filed to run for clerk of circuit court this week as jockeying continued in the races for two open constitutional offices.

Among other potential candidates:

  • Republican Former county Commissioner Victor Crist confirmed he’s testing the waters for either the clerk’s or tax collector’s office.
  • Republican County Commissioner Sandy Murman said she’s “still considering the options given the county’s needs and my experience.”
  • Democratic former City Council member Harry Cohen is expected to file this week for a county commissioner’s seat, forgoing the clerk’s race.
  • School Board member and Democrat Cindy Stuart is said by insiders to be considering the clerk’s race but didn’t respond to messages for comment.

County Democratic Party Chair Ione Townsend said this week she’s not aware of any other prominent Democrats interested in the clerk’s office.

Beckner said he’s running because, “It’s my passion to continue my service in county government,” and because his experience as a commissioner and financial planner prepare him for the job.

He held a commissioners’ seat from 2008-16, then lost in a primary for the clerk’s office to incumbent Pat Frank.

Cohen, who ran for mayor this year, had been a subject of speculation because he has worked in the clerk’s office and is close to Clerk Pat Frank, who will retire when her term ends next year.

The race became more open recently when county Commissioner Les Miller announced he’ll retire when his term expires next year instead of seeking the clerk’s office as he had planned.

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