Gillum PAC Spent Over $46K Per Month on Consulting With No Election Imminent

Andrew Gillum
Andrew Gillum / Getty Images
October 22, 2019

Andrew Gillum's political action committee Forward Florida has spent over $373,500 on consulting since February—over $46,000 per month—even though the PAC is not backing any candidate and no major election will occur in the state until November 2020.

While the spending is not illegal, several Florida-based political consultants and campaign finance attorneys who declined to speak on the record said the amount of spending does raise questions.

And this is not the first time Forward Florida has faced controversy. Donors criticized the PAC for not spending more of its cash on hand to help Gillum win his 2018 gubernatorial election.

The lion's share of the consulting fees have been $25,000 monthly installments to the law firm of Stearns Weaver Miller, a statewide legal team specializing in "a range of issues, including campaign advertising and finance, disputed elections, Florida Open Government / Sunshine Laws, and ethics issues," according to its website.

The Pittman Law Group has raked in $70,000 spread across eight payments since February from Forward Florida. The Pittman Law Group is headed by longtime Gillum adviser Sean Pittman. Pittman has been on the periphery of many of the ethical investigations Gillum has been subject to in recent years.

Catecomm, Gillum's public relations firm, collected $41,800 in consulting fees since February.

Requests for comment to Forward Florida, Stearns Weaver Miller, Pittman Law Group, and Catecomm were not returned.

The government watchdog Integrity Florida said the expenditures should raise eyebrows.

"In Florida’s campaign finance system, political committees represent the biggest loophole that allows candidates to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money," said Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida.

"The amount spent by Forward Florida would be considered typical for a candidate in the heat of a campaign, not so much for one who is between elections. It appears to me this money is being used to fund campaign infrastructure so it will be up and running for a future campaign."

For comparison, the Florida for a Fair Wage political committee, which is currently petitioning for an increase to the state minimum wage, has cut checks for just over $100,000 on consulting, accounting, and advertising over a 22-month period, much longer than the 9 months of Forward Florida expenditures analyzed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Forward Florida PAC was a key financial lifeline during Gillum's gubernatorial campaign. The PAC took heat following the election when it was discovered it had more than $3 million cash on hand.

"You lost by 30K votes and kept the money from people who trusted you so that you can now go around the state with a staff preparing your next run. And didn't use it to win!" Democratic donor John Morgan tweeted to Gillum in May.

Requests for comment to Morgan were not returned.

Gillum took control of Forward Florida in March 2019 and launched a voter registration effort aimed at turning Florida blue.

Since the spring, Gillum launched two nonprofits related to the voter-registration effort. Unlike the political action committee, the nonprofits do not have to disclose their donors and only have to make minor disclosures on their spending.

In July, Forward Florida transferred $500,000 to one of the nonprofits, which led Morgan to compare Gillum to Bernie Madoff, who is serving time in prison for implementing the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

"People invested with Madoff with a purpose, financial security," Morgan said at the time.

"I invested in [the Gillum] campaign with a purpose, to help the most people with the least amount, the powerless. The money was for them, not him. He kept it for his own political future. It is a political Ponzi scheme. The end game is to continue to follow the money."