TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — An FBI undercover agent posing as a developer may have paid expenses related to a fundraising dinner for Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, according to documents released Friday.
The information has surfaced amid an ongoing ethics investigation that has shadowed the Tallahassee mayor ever since he upset other Democrats in the August primary.
The newly released documents show that lobbyist Adam Corey — a former friend and ally of Gillum’s — sent an invoice for $4,386 to the agent, posing as a developer named Mike Miller. The bill was for an April 2016 reception on behalf of Gillum’s political committee that featured filet mignon, salmon mousse canapes, strawberry shortcake and an open bar.
The information was released by Christopher Kise, a lawyer representing Corey, in response to a request earlier this week from the state’s ethics commission. The commission is investigating whether Gillum accepted gifts from lobbyists after a Tallahassee businessman and persistent critic of Gillum filed a complaint. Florida law bars local elected officials from accepting anything worth more than $100. Kise was once Florida’s solicitor general and served on the transition team of Republican Gov. Rick Scott when Scott won in 2010.
Gillum has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which involves some of the same people whose names have surfaced in an ongoing FBI investigation into city government.
Corey helped arrange meetings with Gillum on behalf of the undercover agent, but his lawyer has declined to answer questions on whether Corey was working in tandem with the FBI.
It’s not clear if the undercover agent paid the invoice for the reception that Corey hosted at his house on behalf of Gillum’s committee. Campaign finance records filed by the committee do not appear to show any contributions or in-kind donations to cover the event expenses. It is against Florida law for political committee to accept donations without reporting them.
“Attached is the invoice for the dinner you graciously offered to sponsor,” Corey wrote to the agent. “As I mentioned, it was a bit higher than I expected because of some last minute attendees so let me know what you would like to cover and I’ll handle the rest. Again, I really appreciate this.”
Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for the campaign, criticized Kise as one of “Rick Scott’s former political hatchet men” who decided to “leak more documents about trips and events that have been reported on before.” But he insisted the undercover agent did not pay for the fundraising dinner.
“Mayor Gillum did not receive any contributions or in-kinds from Mike Miller,” Burgan said.
Yet Burgan would not answer questions as to why required campaign finance records do not show any expenses associated with the event. One of the documents released Friday also shows that Gillum’s then-finance director told Corey that Gillum sent a thank-you note to the agent posing as Mike Miller.
Earlier this week Kise released texts and other information contradicting Gillum’s assertion that he paid all of his expenses on trips to Costa Rica and New York City, which are the subject of the ethics complaints. Those trips came to light in June 2017, when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five years of records from Tallahassee and a local redevelopment agency and the FBI investigation became public.
In February, a federal search warrant accidentally released on a public court website revealed that the FBI launched its corruption investigation in 2015 and that agents posed as out-of-town real-estate developers and medical marijuana entrepreneurs in order to gain access to various city officials. The warrant stated that agents were focusing on City Commissioner Scott Maddox, a former head of the Florida Democratic Party, and his former chief of staff. Maddox has denied any wrongdoing.
The FBI also asked for records involving an upscale restaurant located in a city-owned building. One of the owners of the restaurant was Corey, who once served as Gillum’s campaign treasurer and has known him since college.
Gillum vacationed at a luxury resort in Costa Rica in May 2016 with Corey, as well as another investor in the Edison. During that trip, Corey set up a meeting between Gillum and people who ended up being FBI undercover agents.
Gillum also met the undercover agent posing as developer Mike Miller and Corey on a trip later that year where he went to see the hit Broadway play “Hamilton.” Documents released this week show that he was told in a text that “Miller” had gotten the ticket.
During a mid-week debate, Gillum admitted taking the ticket, but said he received it from his brother and he thought his brother swapped them for concert tickets to see Jay-Z and Beyonce.
“I should have asked more questions to make sure that everything that transpired was above board,” Gillum said, before quickly trying to switch topics.
“In the state of Florida, we’ve got a lot of issues. In fact, we’ve got 99 issues and Hamilton ain’t one of them.”
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