A Broward County elected official is under fire after an ethics complaint filed last week revealed that an entity she claims as a major source of income doesn’t actually exist. Alissa Jean Schafer serves on the county’s Soil and Water Commission as an elected board member. Under state law, she is required to file an annual financial disclosure that includes a listing of all income and its sources.
According to the ethics complaint, the group she’s getting money from doesn’t currently exist anywhere. Nor has it ever existed. The revelation raises serious questions about the actual source of payments she collected while serving as an elected official in Florida.
Schafer is listed as a “research and communications specialist” on a website purporting to represent the “Energy and Policy Institute,” which is allegedly based in San Francisco, California. The organization is also listed on her financial disclosure statement as a major source of income paid into her consulting company.
But according to the ethics complaint, which was filed by an Alabama-based group called the Jobkeeper Alliance, two independent searches, one by a private sector attorney, and a second by the Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office, both failed to locate a single record in any state in the nation that could confirm that the Energy and Policy Institute is a legitimate organization. Merrill has demanded that the group reveal its legal status.
Schafer did not respond to multiple attempts to comment for this story, which is unusual for her. She’s been quoted in numerous stories published by Florida newspapers over the past few years. Her most recent comments were in a story where she criticized the role of so-called “dark money” in politics, that is, money spent to influence public opinion, the source of which is kept secret from the public.
Given the fact that the Energy and Policy Institute doesn’t legally exist, the entire operation is effectively funded by “dark money,” the very thing Schafer – and her employer – claim to oppose.
But her problems could be far more serious than public ridicule due to her hypocrisy. That’s because an elected official falsifying public records to shield the source income is a direct violation of Florida law, putting her in potential legal hot water.
“The public deserves to know who pays the salaries of Alissa Schafer…and the many others who work under the name Energy and Policy Institute,” said Kimberly Adams, Executive Director of the Jobkeeper Alliance, the group that filed the ethics complaint in Florida. “If the group really values transparency, it can start by answering the simplest of questions: who are they and who pays for their work?”