1. Hillsborough

William March: Two new complaints filed against Ross Spano

Two new complaints have been filed against Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, alleging that his 2018 campaign is continuing to violate federal law by failing to return contributions it knew were illegal. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times (2017)]
Two new complaints have been filed against Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, alleging that his 2018 campaign is continuing to violate federal law by failing to return contributions it knew were illegal. [SCOTT KEELER | Times (2017)]
Published Aug. 6, 2019

Two new complaints have been filed against Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, alleging that his 2018 campaign is continuing to violate federal law by failing to return contributions it knew were illegal.

The complaints were filed by the same person who filed an earlier complaint to the Federal Elections Commission concerning the allegedly illegal contributions themselves, Jan Barrow, president of the Lakeland Democratic Women's Club.

Her new complaints went to the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics, a non-partisan body established by the House to review allegations of misconduct by members or staff. The OCE can investigate complaints and refer them to the House Committee on Ethics.

The complaints arose because from June-October 2018, Spano borrowed $180,000 from two friends, Carey Carreno and Karen Hunt, and then, on dates roughly corresponding to those loans, he in turn loaned $167,000 to his campaign, which he reported as coming from "personal funds."

Campaign finance law says a candidate can give or loan his campaign any amount of personal funds. But a loan from a friend or relative for the purpose of providing money to the campaign is considered a contribution from the lender and is subject to contribution limits, which were $2,700, said Adav Noti, a former FEC assistant general counsel now with the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center.

In a Nov. 30 letter to the FEC, sent after the Times reported on the loans, Spano's lawyers said he "believed he was acting in full compliance with the law … based on consultations he had at the time," but then learned that the contributions "may have been in violation" of federal campaign finance laws."

Spano says he has since repaid Hunt and Carreno with the proceeds of a bank loan to himself. His personal financial disclosure shows a December, 2018 loan of up to $250,000 from Center State Bank.

Noti said a bank loan can be a permissible source of campaign funds, depending on the loan terms. But Spano's campaign has not reported receiving the proceeds of the bank loan nor repaying Hunt and Carreno, and Spano has not filed legally required FEC forms detailing the loan terms.

The complaints cite the letter from Spano's lawyers to the FEC as evidence that he knew at least by November 2018 the loans were illegal contributions.

Under federal law, the complaints say, if a campaign learns it has received an illegal contribution, it has 30 days to "disgorge" the contribution by returning it to the donor.

The OCE complaint alleges that Spano knew all along he was violating the law, saying, "It appears that Rep. Spano … engaged in a fraudulent and reckless scheme to funnel contributions well in excess of federal limits to his own campaign."

Barrow said she is "just an individual citizen that is sick and tired of politicians getting away with things. I want an integrity-filled person representing the constituents, and I don't think Ross Spano is that person.

"I think he is making a calculated decision that this will get swept under the rug or nobody's paying attention. I think he had full intent of doing it."

She noted that Spano, a lawyer, initially ran for state attorney general before switching to the Congressional District 15 race.

"You can't say on one hand that you're a lawyer and run for attorney general and say your experience (in the state Legislature) prepares you to serve, and then say you didn't know the law," she said.

Spano campaign spokeswoman Sandi Poreda responded via email Monday that the new complaints "are obviously politically motivated," referring to Barrow's political activity.

"The FEC is looking into the situation with the loans and as soon as they provide us with guidance, we'll know what steps to take next."

Spano didn't respond to a Times request for comment, but told a WFLA-TV interviewer Sunday the accusation that he purposely broke the law is "absolutely false," citing the letter of admission his lawyers sent to the FEC.

"I made an honest mistake. … When I found out about the potential problem, I immediately self-reported … to the FEC," he said. "Now we're working with the FEC to make sure we're in compliance."

Barrow said she emailed the OCE complaint Saturday and the FEC complaint was due for Federal Express delivery Tuesday.

Local Republicans on shootings

Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk's Facebook post Monday in the aftermath of the weekend's mass shootings: "Democrats do pray … they pray for violence, devastation, & destruction of mass shootings! Why? For the sole purpose of Fundraising!!!"

On Facebook, the comment got about a dozen "likes" and at least one angry, obscene response.

Democratic Chairman Ione Townsend responded, "Democrats do pray — we pray for peace, we pray for unity, and we pray that Republicans will stop this hateful rhetoric."

Meanwhile, in a Brian Stelter tweet, CNN blasted 49 Republican Congress members, including Hillsborough Reps. Ross Spano and Vern Buchanan and Sen. Rick Scott, for refusing to go on air Monday to talk about the shootings.

Contact William March at


  1. We were warned. Now the pirates are here. Stay with all day for the latest reports.
  2. A for sale sign is seen in front of a home in the Westchase area of Tampa. CHRIS URSO  |  Times (2013)
    And a spike in cash sales suggests investors were active in the market.
  3. Leading the way up Seddon Channel during the 2014 pirate invasion is the Jose Gasparilla, escorted by a Tampa Police Department boat and surrounded by hundreds of private vessels. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times 2014]
    As many as 100 law enforcement boats from some 20 agencies will keep an eye out for drunk operators and boats in trouble.
  4. Hillsborough deputies say Lesly Mendoza, 5, is missing and endangered because of allegations of abuse. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    Investigators believe Lesly Mendoza, 5, is endangered because of allegations of abuse.
  5. A look at the construction on the Tierra Verde bridge project which is the bridge between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2021. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Dr. Delay takes a deep dive into the construction process for the $56.3 million State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project .
  6. A proposed bill in the Legislature would set a statewide referendum on whether to amend Florida's constitution to add a year to the period when home buyers can transfer their accumulated benefits under the Save Our Homes cap on property assessments to a new home. Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty says going from two years to three would reduce the possibility that construction delays in a booming real estate market would prevent some buyers from meeting the deadline, costing them potentially thousands 
 of dollars in property tax savings. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times (2019)]
    The bill, the idea of Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, would give buyers another year to transfer their tax savings under Florida’s Save Our Homes assessment cap to a home they’ve...
  7. Child and family advocate Jack Levine. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    The founder of 4Generations Institute discusses his commitment to children and families.
  8. Miranda Harwood, a fourth-grade math teacher at Brooker Elementary School, is the Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year. [Hillsborough County Public Schools]
    The self-described “data queen” uses humor to keep her students engaged.
  9. This poster was seen January 21 inside a Brandon pet shop owned by All About Puppies, one of two pet retail businesses in Hillsborough County that were granted an exception from county laws prohibiting commercial pet stores from selling animals that came from breeders. [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Times]
    The proposed ordinance would ban all commercial pet retailers and impose strict regulations on breeders operating within the county.
  10. Concentrix has told the state of Florida that it plans to lay off as many as 174 employees from one of the programs it has at the Interstate Corporate Center east of Tampa. This is the same call center hit with 245 layoffs announced in November. (Google street view photo) [Google Street View]
    In November, Concentrix, the California multinational company that runs the center, announced the layoffs of 245 employees.