For years, a 501(c)(4) “dark-money” nonprofit alleged Florida Strong has been acknowledging Democratic candidates beyond the state. Though the backstairs accumulation has been added than admirable of its own criticism over the years, there’s allegedly now a second and conceivably alike shadier alignment alleged “Florida Strong” adjourned by right-wingers operating in the state. The new PAC is now active a agglomeration of awful, anti-Andrew Gillum ads that falsely accredit to the Tallahassee ambassador as a “socialist,” amid added batty attacks.
Perhaps best misleadingly, the PAC is additionally allotment Facebook ads allurement users to bang to see which “award” Andrew Gillum afresh received. The website redirects to a distinct folio assuming a affected accolade congratulating Gillum for Tallahassee’s aerial abomination rate. The armpit is clickbait.
So who is advantageous for these attacks? According to accompaniment campaign-finance records, the new Florida Strong political activity committee’s allotment comes from a baby core of bourgeois donors, including $15,000 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Attack Committee, $9,000 from a accumulation alleged “Sunshine Accompaniment Conservatives,” $4,000 from addition PAC alleged the “Responsible Leadership Committee,” $25,000 from a pro-Trump PAC alleged the “Freedom First Committee,” and a whopping $100,000 donation on March 1 from above Sarasota accompaniment administrator Patrick K. Neal, who is now a above real-estate developer about Florida.
But conceivably the best arresting donation came in the anatomy of a $25,000 analysis on September 28 from Florida’s better ability aggregation — Florida Ability & Light, one of Florida’s four state-regulated electricity monopolies.
FPL assembly did not acknowledge to a bulletin from New Times yesterday evening. But the timing of FPL’s donation — connected afterwards the August primary, as Gillum connected to advance in the acclamation — suggests that the aggregation is pumping added money into the political chase to try to aback Ron DeSantis into the governorship.
The baton of the original, Democrat-leaning Florida Strong group, Maria Garcia, tells New Times she believes the new accumulation is advised to either actor her alignment or artlessly abash voters. She additionally approved to address the group’s Facebook folio for burglary her group’s identity, but Facebook beneath to aish the page. She provided New Times with her email alternation acknowledging her barter with the social-media giant.
“This feels like a advised attack to mislead voters and to addled the amnion application Facebook to accomplishment misinformation,” Garcia told New Times.
FPL is one of the better distinct political donors in the state. The aggregation has connected been accused of application political donations to ensure accompaniment assembly don’t impede its acutely safe business archetypal or adapt its ecology standards too hard. Reporters acquire bent aggregation lobbyists autograph portions of proposed accompaniment laws. The aggregation and its ancestor corporation, NextEra Energy, about abutment Republicans but neither is shy about altruistic to Democrats accommodating to acquire power-company cash, too.
FPL floods money to all sorts of political-action committees and is doubtable of allotment bounded and civic “dark money” groups as well. In 2015, FPL spent added than $8 million on a ambiguous attack clearly advised to ambush Floridians into authoritative it harder to install solar panels on their own homes.
One ultrapowerful PAC, Associated Industries of Florida (and its abounding subsidiary PACs), is absolutely even with FPL money. The AIF, which is additionally adjourned in ample allotment by Big Sugar, has accustomed DeSantis’ campaign. FPL additionally gave a small, $754 in-kind donation to the “Friends of Ron DeSantis” PAC on August 29.
But the new “Florida Strong” PAC is a decidedly aberrant case. The already-extant, Democratic-leaning Florida Strong is a adequately acclaimed accumulation in Sunshine Accompaniment political circles — the accumulation is angry to a arrangement of donors alleged the “Florida Alliance,” which is affiliated to billionaire mega-donor and above Florida Democratic Party arch Stephen Bittel, who was affected to footfall bottomward afterwards he was accused of animal aggravation and ancestral insensitivity. The better-known adaptation of Florida Strong compiles action analysis on candidates and stumps for centrist-Democratic causes. Critics, abnormally those on the Democratic Party’s larboard flank, say the group’s allotment structures assume backbiting and that Democrats should not stoop to application the aforementioned “dark-money,” 501(c)(4) approach as right-wingers do. (Unlike 501(c)(3) nonprofits, 501(c)(4) groups do not accurately acquire to acknowledge their donors.) Added critics say the accumulation is either bootless or comparatively progressive.
The arrangement of Florida Alliance groups is angry to a civic 501(c)(4) nonprofit alleged America Votes. According to Politico Florida, the name “Florida Strong” is technically a affected name endemic by a 501(c)(4) accumulation alleged “Florida Watch Action.”
But Garcia, the group’s director, said she begin out about the new, right-leaning PAC from a friend, who saw the anti-Gillum ads on Facebook and was abashed by their rightward slant.
“She said that the messaging seemed way aberrant for Florida Strong, so she beatific me a screenshot,” Garcia said. “Imagine my shock aback I saw our name aing to anti-Gillum ads calling him a socialist.”
Asked to comment, Neal, the above accompaniment administrator and the right-leaning group’s better distinct benefactor, said in a two-word email to New Times that he had donated $100,000 to the PAC “for this,” and included a articulation to a pro-Adam Putnam ad that ran during the Republican gubernatorial primary. Putnam again absent to DeSantis by a huge allowance in August.
But the PAC is now advantageous for a website alleged LearnAboutGillum.com, which includes a massive banderole afire that Gillum has “WRONG account for Florida” and that “under Andrew Gillum, Florida will be bankrupt for business.” The website additionally includes a bizarre, cool blueprint assuming area the accumulation thinks Gillum sits on the left-right political calibration aural the Democratic Party:
Gillum has proposed adopting taxes on corporations in adjustment to pay for added amusing programs for the poor and alive class. But he is additionally especially not a left-wing — both in name and in policy. As a actual basal example, he has not proposed artisan ascendancy of businesses or the aishment of aggregation profits. He is likely the best left-leaning gubernatorial applicant Florida has apparent and has been accustomed by added than a few socialists, but it’s artlessly inaccurate to say he’s proposing a left-wing platform. He isn’t.
But the ads Florida Strong is active on Facebook say Gillum will “bring Bernie Sanders-style socialism to Florida.” The ads additionally apace falsely accompaniment that Gillum wants to “end Medicare for seniors” by instituting a civic Medicare-for-All healthcare plan that would, by design, awning everyone. The website additionally says that a single-payer healthcare plan will amount an estimated $32 abundance in new taxes — but, as New Times acclaimed beforehand this acclamation cycle, that cardinal is absolute scare-mongering, aback Americans are absolutely projected to pay added than that for allowance premiums and added healthcare costs if we don’t institute Medicare-for-All.
The armpit additionally again whacks Gillum for the actuality that murders added in Leon County afterwards he aing the Tallahassee City Commission in 2003 and after became the city’s ambassador in 2014. But that “increase” is additionally a bit ambiguous — there were 14 murders in Leon County in 2004, compared to a aiguille of 22 in 2017, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data. (Leon County’s all-embracing abomination amount does abide the state’s highest.) Though no cardinal of murders is good, this is additionally not Cocaine Cowboys-era Miami we’re talking about.
Garcia, the arch of the advanced Florida Strong, showed New Times an email alternation with Facebook. On October 15, she appear the right-leaning accumulation to the aggregation for impersonating her organization. A Facebook agent wrote aback the aing day cogent Garcia the aggregation was not activity to aish the page.
“We aren’t able to aish the accounts you appear because they don’t breach Facebook action or they acquire already been unpublished,” a Facebook agent articular alone as “Henry” wrote. “We can alone aish accounts that falsely affirmation to represent your official attendance on Facebook. Fan pages and assessment pages don’t breach Facebook policy.”
It conceivably didn’t advice that the advanced Florida Strong is additionally operating beneath its own, affected name.
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