When disposing of all the campaign cash she and her husband didn't spend on dinners, family phone bills, and other luxuries, Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter decided to do the Florida Democratic Party a favor: As seen above, she contributed $5,000 to party coffers.
Or so it seemed. Although Ritter claimed the donation in campaign reports, an investigation by the Florida Elections Commission found that there was no evidence that Ritter gave the contribution or that the Democratic Party received it. A state investigator wrote in a summary report:
"According to [Ritter's] campaign treasurer's report, on July 25, 2008, a check was issued to the Florida Democratic Party for $5,000. Bank records do not agree with the information on the campaign treasurer's report. The check for $5,000 to the Florida Democratic Party was not found in bank records from the campaign depository. Additionally, there is no record of the contribution in reports filed with the Division by the Florida Democratic Party on or about the date listed on Respondent's campaign report."
Read that again (the italics are mine). No $5,000 campaign check was written to the Florida Democratic Party from Ritter's campaign, and the party's own filings indicate that it never received the money. The only money Ritter's campaign actually gave to the state party was a $1,750 check for the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner, and that was listed separately.
That's five grand nowhere to be found -- which is a pretty large "bookkeeping error," as Ritter is calling them.
Ritter didn't respond to an earlier request for explanation, and she didn't make it to the Broward County Commission meeting today (she's doing it by phone; is she on another cruise?).
Inside, read about a large bounced check to the National Jewish Democratic Council and an unexplained withdrawal of the last $3,000 from the campaign account. At best, it's another whopper of a bookkeeping error.
The FEC investigation found that as Ritter and Klenet were disposing of the campaign funds they wrote a $5,000 check to the National Jewish Democratic Council on January 30, 2009. Here's the check:
The problem with that campaign donation was that at that time there was only $3,023.35 in the campaign's bank account at that time. When the NJDC attempted to cash the check on Febuary 3, it was returned for insufficient funds, according to the FEC. The bounced check was a properly ignominious end to one of the dirtiest campaign accounts you'll ever see.
Here's where it gets really interesting: On February 4, Ritter and Klenet withdrew that $3,023.35 from the account. Here's the withdrawal slip:
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What did Ritter and Klenet do with that money? Here's the way the FEC describes the situation in its report:
"The beginning balance for February 2009 was $3,023.35. On January 30, 2009,
Respondent issued a check to NJDC (National Jewish Democratic Council) for $5000.00. The
check was presented for payment on February 3, 2009-the check was returned for insufficient
funds. On February 4, 2009, Respondent withdrew $3,023.35 closing the campaign account."
These are just some of the findings from the investigation; there are apparently no charges related to these matters in part because the complaint against Ritter by Brenda Chalifour didn't mention any of these things. There may be a viable explanation, but it's essential that state prosecutors who are reportedly investigating the campaign get to the bottom of it.