UPDATE: On October 23, 2018, text messages surfaced which appear to show Andrew Gillum knowingly accepted a bribe from an undercover FBI agent, allegedly in exchange for his support on a proposed economic development deal in Tallahassee. The story was first reported by Politico and the Tampa Bay Times. Gillum denies the allegations.
As Florida heads down the homestretch of the 2018 Election Cycle, voters will hear more and more about Democrat gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and the FBI probes, ethics charges and related allegations. Here’s a roundup of each, and the connections between them.
One of the best resources for all things Gillum is the excellent Tallahassee Reports, which has chronicled Gillum’s woes for as long as the digital media outlet has existed. In addition to deeper coverage of the FBI probe, Tallahassee Reports has also shed light on other eyebrow-raising activities in which Gillum always seems to be at the center. Here is the most comprehensive list of the Andrew Gillum ethics and corruption scandals:
Shady PR Firm Salary – Rent payments from Gillum’s campaign are made to a PR firm that funnels the cash right back to Gillum in the form of salary. The PR firm is owned by Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a close confidante of Gillum.
From the Tallahassee Democrat:
The Democrat in June asked Gillum’s campaign manager, Geoff Burgan, about Gillum’s work for P&P and who its clients are. His response lacked detail.
“P&P Communications is a private company that does leadership consulting,” Burgan said. “I don’t have a client list for you though.”
Lettman-Hicks, in an interview with the Democrat, said Gillum has one client: herself. She said Gillum advises her on strategies for key projects, coalition building and the selection of other clientele.
Lettman-Hicks paid Gillum more than $70,000 last year to give her advice.
The PR firm itself, P&P Communications, operates in the shadows, with no website nor any known clients, according to Tallahassee Reports, none that is, except the Andrew Gillum campaign. Oddly enough, the Tallahassee Democrat reported on August 1st that Gillum’s previous employer (before joining P&P Communications while simultaneously serving as Mayor of Tallahassee and running for governor) was with People for the American Way, which also just so happened to exist in the very same building at 1550 Melvin Street in Tallahassee.
But the cash flowing through the overlapping organizations at 1550 Melvin Street and into Gillum’s pockets pales in comparison to the suspicious activity happening elsewhere in Tallahassee.
800 Gaines Street, LLC – According to Tallahassee Reports, Andrew Gillum’s 2014 campaign treasurer, Adam Corey, was one of several investors who finagled their way into a real estate deal with the City of Tallahassee that Gillum voted to approve. The investors bought the property from the city – which claims nobody else wanted – for $225,000, then turned around and sold it three years later for $525,000, more than doubling their money (129% profit).
The Edison Restaurant – Once again, Gillum’s close friend Adam Corey is at the center of scandal. The Edison Restaurant exists because it received substantial subsidies from the City of Tallahassee, with some estimates as high as $2.1 million dollars. The Edison Restaurant the developers behind the project, including Corey, were the focus of FBI subpoenas served last year. Tallahassee Reports has faithfully chronicled all of the woes and corruption related to The Edison Restaurant.
FBI Probe – With the above real estate deals as the backdrop, it becomes easier to understand why the FBI sent undercover agents to pose as real estate developers. One of the central figures in the probe is Gillum’s long-time friend and political ally, Adam Corey. Much of that remains murky but has been widely reported.
As if that’s not enough already, Gillum also took a trip to Costa Rica, along with Adam Corey and others, where he stayed a posh hotel. Gillum told the media and the Florida Commission on Ethics that he paid cash for the trip, and offered a $400 ATM cash withdrawal as “evidence” that he paid his own way. As POLITICO noted in their coverage, Gillum’s records raised more questions than answers.
And to top it all off, Gillum’s old friend, Adam Corey (or more accurately, his attorney, Chris Kise) told the media that Gillum never reimbursed Corey for the trip, contradicting Gillum’s claims in the press:
Christopher Kise, an attorney representing Corey, disputes that Gillum paid $400 for the trip. He told the Associated Press Tuesday night that he has not received any cash for the Costa Rica stay to date. (Source: Politico)
Obviously, either Corey or Gillum is lying about the trip. The fact that his close friend, Corey, is now openly bashing Gillum suggests there are interesting (FBI related?) dynamics at work.
Whether or not Gillum is ultimately implicated by the FBI in actual corruption charges remains to be seen, but it remains a significant cloud over his campaign, just as it’s always been hanging over his time as Tallahassee mayor.