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Legal fees, consultants continue to eat at remainder of Andrew Gillum PAC money

Jeffrey Schweers
USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau
Winter Haven News Chief

The original $3 million nest egg left over from former Tallahassee Mayor Andre Gillum’s 2018 campaign for governor now is down to its last $1.76 million — with no sign that fund will be replenished.

That’s what’s left in the Forward Florida political committee after spending what was left over on legal fees, political and communications consultants, accountants and grants to get-out-the-vote campaigns in the 18 months since Gillum, a Democrat, narrowly lost the race to Republican Ron DeSantis.

After the defeat, Gillum said he would redirect that political money to “flip Florida blue” by registering new voters.

Indeed, most of the committee's money has gone to voter registration efforts and political donations, officials with Forward Florida have said. But a substantial sum — around $650,000 — has gone to legal fees.

"For nearly a year and a half, Forward Florida and Forward Florida Action have been engaged in voter registration and re-engagement, investing over $1.5 million in progressive groups across Florida to empower Floridians who too often get overlooked, especially our state's communities of color," said Joshua Karp, a consultant for Forward Florida.

All told, Forward Florida raised $38.9 million since it opened in March 2016, according to campaign reports with the Division of Elections. As of April 30, it logged $37.14 million in expenses, including $111,128 for the month of April, of which $39,000 went to the Stearns Weaver law firm.

That’s a big drop from the $183,483 spent in March, with about $130,000 of that going to three different law firms.

That same month, Miami Beach police found Gillum in a hotel room too intoxicated to speak coherently when they responded to a call about an apparent drug overdose of another person in the room.

Gillum later admitted to a drinking problem, said he was stepping down from public life and went into rehab.

Contributions have dried up, though, as Gillum's new legal woes emerged.

For the first time since August 2018, not a single contribution was posted in April, after raising just $2,187 in March and $12,184 in February.

That’s because fundraising efforts shifted almost entirely to Forward Florida Action, a separate nonprofit set up last year to concentrate on voter registration efforts around the state.

Though no longer an active political committee, Forward Florida meanwhile continues making monthly payments to Karp, who is based in Maryland, Tallahassee media firm CateComm, Pittman Law Group of Tallahassee, Evergreen Strategies of Tampa, and Whitney Consulting, a Miami fundraising consultant.

Contact Jeff Schweers at jschweers@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.