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Is congressional candidate Ross Spano ‘bribing’ voters with nickels?

At a Lakeland convenience store, Spano gave customers a nickel a gallon on their gas purchases, refunding their “Neil Combee gas tax.”
Neil Combee, left, and Ross Spano, now fighting for a Republican congressional nomination, served together in the Legislature. [Times files]
Neil Combee, left, and Ross Spano, now fighting for a Republican congressional nomination, served together in the Legislature. [Times files]
Published Aug. 24, 2018

Congressional candidate Ross Spano dreamed up what he considered a fun way to dramatize his criticism of opponent Neil Combee over Combee's vote for a 5-cent per gallon gas tax while he was a Polk County commissioner in 1999.

At a Lakeland convenience store, Spano gave customers a nickel a gallon on their gas purchases, refunding their "Combee gas tax."

Combee was not amused.

In a news release, he condemned Spano for a "blatantly illegal attempt to bribe voters of District 15. … Under state and federal law giving voters cash is a bribe — for any reason."

"Law enforcement has been notified and an investigation is anticipated," he added ominously.

Spano's consultant Brock Mikosky said the campaign's lawyers assured them the move was "completely legal."

"Perhaps Neil should focus more on campaigning and less on raising taxes."

The move is "of questionable wisdom," said independent election law expert Ron Meyer, but he doesn't think it violates the law.