The race for State Senate District 24 took a decidedly nasty turn for the worse when a group called The American People Committee sent a mailer bashing Tom Lee by linking him to Hillsborough County’s porn-vexed property appraiser, Rob Turner.
How that hit piece was funded is at the center of a series of complaints filed with the Florida Elections Commission that accuse candidate Rachel Burgin and lobbyist Kenya Cory of violating multiple election laws.
The complaints were filed by Paul Phillips, the Hillsborough attorney and Republican activist who filed the first ethics complaints against then-Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman over his failure to accurately reveal financial information on state-mandated candidate financial disclosure forms. Those complaints eventually led to Norman deciding not to seek a second term in the Florida Senate.
In his complaints, Phillips alleges that Burgin “failed to file a statement of solicitation related to her efforts” to raise money for the committee which sent the mailer attacking Lee. Furthermore, Phillips alleges Burgin failed to properly disclose contributions to this committee and build a website to disclose these contributions. Because Cory acts as chair of the American People Committee, Phillips has also named her in the complaints. But, Phillips also filed a complaint against Cory for “sending multiple electioneering communications from a committee of continuous existence in violation of Florida law.”
Phillips cites the extensive reporting of Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald and William March of the Tampa Tribune in his filings.
These complaints are sure to further upend what has become one of the most bitterly contested GOP primaries this election cycle. Phillips indicates in his complaint that he intends to copy the Hillsborough State Attorney on his complaints.
Some lobbyists still loathe Lee for actions that targeted the lobbying industry while he served as president from 2004 to 2006. After the attack on Lee’s personal life was reported, Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry issued a statement that said there is an “understood rule in politics that families are off limits, and the recent attacks on Republican Senate candidate Tom Lee in Hillsborough County have undoubtedly crossed that line “
Burgin, Cory and Lee were not available for comment at the time of this posting.
The complaints are below: