Florida's Lieutenant Governor Is Violating Election Law, Group Says

The American Democracy Legal Fund has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Florida's Lieutenant Governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, for allegedly violating the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

On June 20, Lopez-Cantera told a group of Republicans at a Miami-Dade fundraising dinner that on July 15, he'll announce his decision regarding a run for Senate.

But ADLF says that Lopez-Cantera is already effectively a candidate for Senate — that he is just stalling on an official declaration because he is trying to raise as much money as possible before an announcement, when stricter campaign finance rules would apply. 

Lopez-Cantera is being helped by a SuperPAC called Reform Washington. With a normal PAC (political action committee), there are limits to how much a person or group can donate to a candidate. So-called SuperPACs, however, are supposed to operate independently of a candidate's campaign, and can raise and spend unlimited amounts of donations. Reform Washington held a fundraising dinner at Lopez-Cantera's father's home, and it is allegedly being run by Lopez-Cantera's friends.  

The ADLF's complaint also names Reform Washington, and Nancy Watkins, its treasurer. 

Says the ADLF in a press release:

Mr. Lopez-Cantera is delaying his launch so that he can solicit unlimited contributions to his super PAC to support his candidacy.Mr. Lopez-Cantera has qualified as a candidate under the Act, and he has violated the Act by failing to (1) register as a candidate with the Commission and (2) raising money in excess of the legal contribution limits.

The ADLF asserts that an individual becomes a candidate once he has raised or spent more than $5,000 for an election. The candidate is required to register with FEC within 15 days of that. Prior to that, candidates can "test the waters" by conducting polls or research —- but they cross the line into candidacy when they advertise a campaign for office or raise funds that would be spent as a candidate. 

The ADLF asks that "respondents be enjoined from further violations and be fined the maximum amount permitted by law."

The American Democracy Legal Fund, which was launched late last year, has filed similar complaints against Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and more. According to the Washington Post, the ADLF is run by a Democratic operative named Brad Woodhouse. He is a past communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

So far today, there has been no announcement from Lopez-Cantera regarding a candidacy. 

The race so far includes Democrats Patrick Murphy and Allen Grayson running for the seat vacated by Marco Rubio. Republicans include U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and businessman Todd Wilcox.


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