Complaints against Crist and Scott thrown out

Published On: Jul 21 2014 09:11:28 AM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

A flurry of election-year complaints contending that the two leading candidates for governor are flouting Florida's campaign finance laws are getting tossed out.

Since March, supporters of both former Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott have filed a long list of complaints with both the state's ethics commission and the panel that deals with election law violations.

Public records from the Florida Elections Commission show the commission has already rejected two complaints filed this past spring by Republican Party of Florida executive director Justin Johnson that targeted Crist. Both were deemed legally insufficient by commission officials.

The complaints contended Crist got an illegal campaign contribution because he appeared on billboards and in television ads paid by the Morgan & Morgan law firm that included Crist. Crist joined the firm after losing his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is now running for governor as a Democrat.

State law limits how much a person, or corporation, can donate directly to a campaign. The current limit is $3,000 for a statewide race.

One of the complaints was thrown out for technical reasons. But commission records show that investigators stated the other complaint was based on a "faulty premise" because the law firm ads had no political purpose and could not be regulated.

Complaints filed by Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant against Scott and his political committee Let's Get to Work have also been thrown out.

Those complaints maintained that the Scott campaign broke the law when it transferred nearly $27.4 million from one type of campaign account to another. Shortly after the money transfer Let's Get to Work started paying for television ads that have largely criticized Crist.

If the governor's campaign were found to have violated the law, it could have been subject to a fine up to three times the amount of the contribution, or about $82 million.

Commission records show that lawyers for both the Democratic Party and Let's Get to Work argued over whether there were grounds to reject the complaint.

The executive director of the Florida Elections Commission maintained the complaint was legally insufficient because there was no statutory prohibition on the money transfer. A Democratic Party attorney maintained that if the law did not explicitly allow the transfer, then it was illegal.

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