Andrew Gillum PAC fund keeps getting drained for legal, other expenses
As Andrew Gillum continues to stay out of the public eye since a police incident in a Miami Beach hotel room was made public three months ago, the remaining funds in the political committee for his failed 2018 run for governor keep getting tapped.
The all-but-defunct Forward Florida spent $373,874 in May on legal and other bills, financial disclosure reports show, leaving about $1.3 million out of the original $38.9 million raised since it opened in March 2016.
It's the second month in a row the political committee has received no donations.
The organization has invested more than $1.5 million in progressive groups across Florida, but a sizable amount – more than $700,000 – has gone to legal expenses incurred by Gillum during a federal corruption probe into Tallahassee politics.
Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who had the backing of Democratic former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, narrowly lost the governor's race to Ron DeSantis, a Republican congressman endorsed by President Donald Trump.
After the 2018 election, Gillum pledged to use an unspent $3 million from his campaign to help get other Democrats elected in Florida.
"For nearly a year and a half, Forward Florida and Forward Florida Action (FFA) have been engaged in voter registration and re-engagement," said Joshua Karp, spokesman for Forward Florida.
Fundraising efforts have shifted from the political committee to FFA, a separate nonprofit created last year to focus on voter registration efforts around the state, Karp said. Also, FFA has refocused all its efforts on its digital voter registration program, launched in January since COVID-19 makes in-person registration impossible.
The two are separate entities. Forward Florida is run by Rosy Gonzalez Speers while Gillum remains chair, since state law requires the group to have a chair, but he is not actively involved.
Gillum has stepped away from Forward Florida Action and is no longer involved in the organization, Karp said. Ryan Hurst, FFA's former director of programs, has stepped into the role of executive director.
For May, the largest portion – $232,000 – went to the Florida Democratic Party. Another $50,000 went to a group called Florida For All, a Miami-based grassroots organization created in 2013 to support state legislative races.
State Division of Elections records show that Florida For All has been inactive since October 2019. The $50,000 from Forward Florida is the organization's first cash contribution since October 26, 2018, just before the November 2018 midterm elections.
Dormant since the last election cycle, the Florida For All political committee has a new account, treasurer and executive director as of April, and has been reactivated.
The contribution will be reported in the June campaign report, chairman Ray Paultre said, adding that he was thrilled to get money from Forward Florida, which he says shares the same values and goals: To get progressives elected to the Legislature.
The payments to legal firms continues, with $56,565 going to two law firms working on Gilum's legal issues – Stearns Weaver of Miami, and Perkins Coie of Seattle, Washington.
That's more than the $39,000 the committee paid in April to Stearns Weaver but still less than the $130,000 paid out in March to three different law firms, including Stearns Weaver and Perkins Coie.
That same month, Miami Beach police said they 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, stepped down from public life and said he was going into rehab.
Before the Miami Beach incident, Gillum was found in violation of state ethics laws and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for accepting a gift over $100 from a city lobbyist while he was mayor of Tallahassee.
He also was investigated during a federal political corruption probe in Tallahassee, which was responsible for his ongoing legal bills.
Contact Jeff Schweers at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.