PB: Campaign Law Violation Exposed

by SDM

Many Palmetto Bay residents found an 8 x 14, yellow political ad in their mailboxes this weekend. Forget for a moment the idiocy of giving normal people such a dense piece of advertising with the expectation that normal people will read it. What should concern the folks behind the political committee called “Palmetto Bay Concerned Residents (PBCR)” is that SDM did read the document. PBCR’s got some explaining to do.

What is a political committee and why are they used?

Political committees like PBCR are formed to allow people to support candidates through expenditures that are independent of the candidate’s campaign. Why use a committee? The primary reason comes from human nature. We do not like to hear negative things said about one candidate directly from the mouth of the opposing candidate.

So, a candidate will ask his friends and supporters to form a committee that can blast the opposition while he himself stays above the fray. According to the mailer, PBCR seems to have been formed for the specific purpose of supporting Vice Mayor Pariser’s re-election and Tim Schaffer’s candidacy for Councilman.

How are political committees regulated?

Florida election law governs all campaign activity. What’s important to understand here is that the term “political committee” carries with it a series of legal requirements that must be followed to the letter. Failing to do so exposes a violator to misdemeanor charges and/or fines. (See s. 106.08(7)(a), Fla. Stat.)

One key requirement of law is that contributions to political committees that support individual candidates may not exceed $500 per person. A political committee may accept unlimited contributions from individuals if it only focus on issues.

How did PBCR violate the campaign finance laws?

Very simply, a person named Jack Fell contributed $3,000 to PBCR and PBCR sent a mailing to Palmetto Bay voters specifically urging a vote for Pariser and Schaffer. Under some circumstances, both the contributor and PBCR may be culpable for an illegal contribution.

Any person may file a complaint with the Florida Division of Elections. Instructions can be found here. SDM knows for a fact that these violations are treated very seriously and will be investigated if a complaint is made.

Fell also donated to Pariser and Schaffer!

Mr. Fell donated directly to Mr. Schaffer on October 1, 2012 and to Pariser on June 5, 2012. Therefore, neither Mr. Pariser nor Mr. Schaffer cannot deny knowledge of Mr. Fell’s activities. PBCR’s reports are published on the village website and the key players at PBCR are also well-known supporters of these candidates.

SDM Wonders: How can a practicing attorney like Mr. Pariser continue to allow (encourage?) his supporters to run rough-shod over the laws he swore to uphold.

Will Palmetto Bay voters notice that Mr. Fell and his cronies at PBCR will go to any lengths to win – including a probable violation Florida’s election laws?

We may find out tomorrow.

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