Congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna’s unsuccessful legal fight seeking a permanent stalking injunction cost $37,612 that she covered by using money she’s raised for her run for a St. Petersburg district in Congress.
According to an October filing with the Federal Election Commission, Luna’s campaign spent the money on Dickinson Wright PLLC, the firm where her attorney for the injunction case, Alan Perlman, works as a bankruptcy lawyer.
The Federal Election Commission, which enforces U.S. campaign finance law, allows political contributions to be used on legal fees on a case-by-case basis. An expenditure is prohibited if the agency determines that it’s for personal use and unrelated to their candidacy, according to the commission.
“If the case involves the campaign or the person’s position as an office holder, then the (Federal Election Commission) is likely to approve,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a Stetson University election law professor, in an email. “But the (Federal Election Commission) will not allow campaign funds to be spent defending DUIs, divorces, sexual crimes, and other purely personal matters.”
Torres-Spelliscy said a candidate can ask the Federal Election Commission for an advisory opinion to ensure that the campaign funds qualify in that legal circumstance, or else they may risk having to pay back their campaign.
James Blair, a spokesman for Luna, said he sought an opinion from counsel who had once worked at the Federal Election Commission. They said it was proper use, he said.
“An opponent said he would have Anna killed if she remained the front runner in the race,” Blair said. “Of course campaign resources have been used to protect Anna from that threat. It’s a shame it came to that.”
The injunction Luna sought centered on William Braddock, who briefly was her Republican opponent for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Luna filed a temporary injunction in June, saying she had been given information that Braddock was conspiring to kill her.
“I received information yesterday (at midnight) regarding a plan (with a timeline) to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me from winning the election for FL-13,” Luna wrote in the June 9 petition.
In a recorded call shortly before Luna filed the petition, Braddock spoke about killing Luna if she were ahead in the polls and about having access to “hit squads.”
“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America, because that would break my heart, but if it needs to be done it needs to be done,” Braddock said in the recorded call.
The St. Petersburg Police Department closed their investigation without action in late June because they said the threats were conditional to Luna’s performance in the primary. The judge dismissed Luna’s injunction in September because she said there was one instance of harassment, and the law requires two.
The legal fee was noted in Luna’s third quarter financial report, where she brought in about $232,000 and spent about $251,000.
In the primary, she faces Amanda Makki, a Republican strategist who raised about $296,000 and spent around $17,000 in the third quarter, and Audrey Henson, a nonprofit founder who raised about $206,000 and spent about $7,000 in the same period.
In the Democratic primary, Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, raised about $303,000 and spent about $116,000. Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, raised about $142,000 and spent about $70,000. National security advisor Eric Lynn raised about $221,000 and spent about $80,000.
Frank Craft, a small business owner, is running as a Libertarian. All candidates seek to replace U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor.