Millions legally “laundered” through small Tampa office
TAMPA – A small office on a quiet street in Tampa funnels millions of dollars into Florida’s political action committees (PACs), committees of continuous existence (CCEs) and so-called 527 electioneering communications organizations. According to Bud Chiles, it also serves as a bricks-and-mortar testament to the shady nature of political giving in the Sunshine State. State elections records show that 63 active and inactive political organizations are connected to Tampa’s 610 South Boulevard, either directly or through an accountant with that address. The active groups have received contributions of over $21.7 million that can be pumped into Florida campaigns – in some cases without having to reveal where the money came from.
“Special interests have Florida’s government in a headlock. Our campaign finance rules have essentially legalized money laundering,” according to Chiles, an independent candidate for governor. “I’m a strong believer in free speech, but I also believe Floridians have a right to know who is speaking.”
Chiles said that, although some of the organizations may be legitimate, others are merely fronts for big-money special interest groups. As governor, Chiles said that he would push for full and meaningful disclosure of the actual people, corporations or unions who contribute more than $500 to any electioneering effort by a 527 organization.
Those persons or organizations who donate over $500 would have to appear by name on any campaign materials or television ads an organization paid for. That also would apply to such groups who contribute to other groups. In other words, if one 527 contributes to another, then donors to the original 527 would have to be disclosed in the ad as well. Chiles said that his proposal differs significantly from previous efforts in that it does not unfairly limit contributions or place any onerous restrictions on political speech – reasons given by a federal court for tossing out Florida’s most recent attempts to reign in 527s.
“This is a fair, common-sense remedy that promotes political speech because it provides more information to voters,” Chiles said.
Chiles added that change is needed because the current situation allows big-money special interests to hide behind misleading names while pushing for interests that may be entirely different.
“It’s political sleight-of-hand,” Chiles said. “For example, Big Sugar, tobacco and power companies all send money to this building and, like magic, these self-interested groups are transformed into the Alliance for a Stronger Economy. Unfortunately, public trust disappears in the process. These organizations need to be accountable to the public – and so should the candidates who benefit from them.“
Chiles noted that our nation’s founders set an important example in the earliest days of our Republic.
”The signers of the Declaration of Independence used their real names, even knowing full well that it might cost them their lives,” he said. “I believe they would be appalled to see today’s politicians hiding behind front groups simply to avoid public scrutiny.”
A list of the political organizations associated with 610 South Boulevard – and the total contributions they have received – is attached.
CONTACT: Jim McClellan