Andrew Gillum fundraising panel spends $52K on crisis management after Miami Beach incident
Former candidate for governor Andrew Gillum's fundraising panel has spent just over $52,000 on a high-powered New Jersey PR firm that specializes in crisis management since he was found in a Miami Beach hotel room with drugs and an alleged male escort.
Forward Florida, the political committee that helped fund Gillum's unsuccessful 2018 run paid the amount in three installments to MWW Group LLC between March 31 and June 15, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.
That's on top of more than $1 million in legal fees he's spent dealing with an ongoing federal investigation of his gubernatorial campaign and a Massachusetts nonprofit.
On March 13, Miami Beach police responded to a 911 call and found Gillum with two other men in a hotel room: Travis Dyson, a model and alleged escort, and Aldo Mejias, a self-described Gillum friend who paid for the room, according to police reports.
Police arrived as paramedics were treating Dyson. They described Gillum, a married father of three, as too inebriated to speak coherently, adding he soon seemed OK and left the hotel. He told them he was in Miami to attend a wedding.
Two days later, he announced he was "stepping down from all public facing roles for the foreseeable future" and checking into rehab for a drinking problem he developed after losing the 2018 election.
"Since my race for governor ended, I fell into a depression that has led to alcohol abuse," Gillum said in a prepared statement issued through MWW.
"I witnessed my father suffer from alcoholism and I know the damaging effects it can have when untreated," he added. "I also know that alcoholism is often a symptom of deeper struggles. I am committed to doing the personal work to heal fully and show up in the world as a more complete person."
Gillum has not been heard from since that time. It is unknown where he entered rehab or for how long.
MWW did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It's the fourth largest PR firm in the world, known for crisis management and ties to the Democratic Party; founder and CEO Michael Kempner held fundraisers for Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.
He also briefly had Anthony Weiner as a member of the company's board of directors, which lasted about two months. Weiner was a young rising star when he resigned from Congress in 2011 after a sexting scandal that received national attention.
Weiner also was married to Huma Abedin, one of Clinton's top advisors. Clinton once referred to Abedin as a "second daughter." And Gillum was a key campaigner for Clinton during the summer of 2016.
Like Weiner, Gillum was a rising young star in the Democratic Party. He surprised political observers in an upset primary election victory over one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham, daughter of popular Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.
Gillum lost the November 2018 general election by 33,000 votes to Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis. His own primary victory over two-term state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also was described as an upset.
Federal investigators issued a subpoena in March 2019 demanding records dating to January 2015, Gillum’s first year as Tallahassee's "leadership" mayor, along with more recent records involving his gubernatorial campaign and Forward Florida.
Forward Florida raised nearly $39 million for the election, but left $3 million on the table. Gillum was later blasted by Democratic supporters for not spending all his campaign money, but he promised to use that money getting people to register to vote and "turn Florida blue."
Representatives for the voter registration drive say Gillum's political committee spent over $1.5 million on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
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.