TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis, who on Wednesday said he wants to create a new state office to investigate and prosecute election-related fraud, has yet to weigh in on a state ethics case involving a sham no-party candidate who is accused of violating campaign finance laws in an attempt to sway a Miami election.
Citing a 15-case backlog, DeSantis’ office said the governor has not had a chance to review and make a final decision on whether the no-party candidate, Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, should be reprimanded.
The Florida Commission on Ethics sent the case to the governor last week, after it found that Rodriguez had filed inaccurate campaign documents with the state and accepted money — more than $40,000 — from a Republican operative with the understanding that he would change his party affiliation from Republican to no party to run in a 2020 legislative race in Miami.
The commission recommended that the governor impose the maximum penalty for the campaign finance violation, which includes a $20,000 fine, a public censure and formal reprimand for his violations.
“Our office currently has 15 cases from the Ethics Commission with recommendations that require our review and final determination,” DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw said Wednesday in an email. “We are working through each of these cases and the commission’s recommendations, according to the date received.”
It is unclear how far back the cases go.
Rodriguez and former Miami Sen. Frank Artiles, the GOP operative who is accused of paying Rodriguez to enter the race, are both facing felony criminal charges in Miami.
Rodriguez, an auto parts salesman who originally pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to the scheme, entered into a plea agreement in August. He pleaded guilty to two campaign finance charges and agreed to help prosecutors in their case against Artiles, who is awaiting trial in the criminal case related to the scheme.
Prosecutors charge that they were part of a scheme that attempted to sway the outcome of an election by siphoning votes from the Democratic incumbent in the Senate District 37 election.
The commission’s recommendation, if accepted by DeSantis, could mark the first resolution in the case, which one commissioner called one of the “most egregious” ethics cases in Florida.
The governor has not weighed in on the criminal charges, either.