1. Opinion

Editorial: Gillum should speak candidly, release records

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor.
Published Oct. 25, 2018

With nearly 1.5 million votes already cast and Election Day less than two weeks away, Andrew Gillum should move quickly to provide more complete answers about his interaction with undercover FBI agents who were investigating corruption in Tallahassee. The Democratic nominee for governor's confusing responses this week about a ticket to the Broadway musical Hamilton are not reassuring. He should be more forthright, and he should seek the immediate release of all records collected in an ongoing state ethics investigation.

Gillum's campaign always has been under a cloud created by a long FBI investigation involving undercover agents, Tallahassee city leaders and Adam Corey, a former lobbyist and longtime friend. Gillum insists he did nothing wrong as Tallahassee mayor, and he says FBI agents have told him he is not the focus of the investigation. His explanations about a ticket to Hamilton and expenses for a Costa Rica vacation were plausible.

But records released Tuesday raise doubts about Gillum's previous answers regarding the Hamilton ticket. He consistently said the ticket came from his brother. But the records show Gillum received this text in August 2016 in New York from Corey, which refers to the FBI undercover agent: "Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m.'' Gillum's reply text: "Awesome news about Hamilton.''

Those texts contradict Gillum's previous explanation, and his statements later Tuesday did not help his credibility. His campaign released a statement that implausibly declared, "These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends.'' Vindicate?

Gillum then said on Facebook Live that "we went in there and saw it, assumed my brother paid for it, and so far as I know, that was the deal.'' That's an awfully big assumption. Here's what Gillum should have said months ago: I made a mistake. I should not have accepted a Hamilton ticket from my brother or my friend or anyone else without confirming who paid for it. I should have paid for the ticket myself. I apologize, and I will be more vigilant in the future.

Voters often forgive mistakes. They are less likely to forgive deceptive explanations. And now Gillum has faces the predictable accusation from his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, that he lied about the Hamilton ticket.

The timing here could not be worse for voters. The election is under way, and they have to choose between Gillum and DeSantis without having a complete picture of what really went on in Tallahassee. Gillum should help by waiving confidentiality on the ethics complaints against him so that all records can be released. If he has nothing to hide as he has claimed for months, that should be an easy call.

The FBI and the Justice Department also could help by publicly declaring whether Gillum is a target of the investigation or not. There is nothing left to hide. The under cover work is long over, and the city of Tallahassee has released to the public thousands of pages of records it has turned over to investigators. A public statement from the Justice Department would be an extraordinary step, but this is an extraordinary situation.

This is a pivotal election for Florida, and time is short. Voters deserve to know as much information as possible as they cast their ballots for governor. Gillum can help by speaking more candidly, releasing more records and trusting the voters' judgment.