Seventeen months after we first broke the story that Nikki Fried, Florida’s top-ranked elected Democrat, was hiding a large sum of cash in her checking account and lying to voters about the source of the income, Fried filed amended disclosures last week that prove our accounting of her income, based on simple math, gave a more accurate report of her net worth than her own lawyers, accountants and campaign advisors. And they had far more access to her financial records than we did.
The newly filed financial disclosure documents filed this week included a 2018 document that showed Fried has been hiding $351,480 in income from her interest in a medical marijuana company since at least January 2020. But, though she made the disclosure, Fried is still not telling the truth about it. Her explanation, provided to Politico by Fried campaign spokesman Max Flugrath, doesn’t add up:
“the 2020 amendment was to remedy a calculation error on net worth — at the initial filing time, her taxes weren’t complete, so the full data wasn’t available. The recent amendment came after we were made aware of an income filing error. We updated it to include her full gross income for 2018, including her salary, and all of her business’ income, and reimbursements.”
That statement is nothing more than public relations gibberish and intentional obfuscation.
Fried is asking us to believe she either wasn’t aware of or just didn’t remember to tell Florida voters about more than a quarter of a million in income she made that year. Scratch that. Let’s be precise. She’s asking us to believe she accidentally lowballed her income by $279,480 from a medical marijuana company called San Felasco Nurseries. How many people can say with a straight face that they “forgot” about a quarter of a million dollars they parked in a bank account in the past 12 months?
Here’s the truth: we know with 100 percent certainty that Fried was aware of the obvious, massive discrepancy in her income at least as early as January 2020. We know this because I personally spoke with members of her self-described “inner circle” 17 months ago on this very subject. Not once. Not twice. But several times. And it was obvious even that early that she made far more money than she was admitting because we could actually see it sitting in her bank account.
Fried claims to “committed to transparency” but in this case, she got caught trying to hide the income in a “blind trust.” The effort, like her attempt this week to explain it again, proved clumsy and failed to do anything other than raise more questions about her income and her integrity.
After talking with her office last January 2020, and listening to her explanation, we published an exhaustive story outlining all the errors and omissions in her accounting, including the fact her checking account had $166,504.25 in newly materialized cash that she’d failed to explain, and a second error in which she’d claimed $128,000 in income from her new state job as Agriculture Commissioner, even though she didn’t get her first paycheck from that job until the following year.
In direct response to that story, Fried filed an amended financial disclosure nine days later, on January 30th, 2020. But that did little to fix the problem, and in fact, only made matters worse. So we called her on it again one week later.
We pointed out on February 6th, 2020, that she still had not disclosed the source of the $166,000 in cash that had materialized in her checking account. And instead of reporting more income, she reported even less. Moreover, the amended form she’d filed didn’t clear up any of the problems we’d told her about. Instead, she deleted her erroneous $128,000 in state salary and replaced it with $72,000 in income from her private company, Igniting Florida, LLC, making her swollen checking account and net worth even more of a mystery. We aren’t forensic accountants, but it should be obvious to anyone that nobody, not even the state’s highest-ranking elected Democrat, can save $166,000 in cash on only $72,000 of income, even if she’d saved every penny.
Now there’s this new amended financial disclosure, filed last week, in which she amended $72,000 figure she reported in January 2020 to reflect the truth we already knew, She actually made at least $279,480 more than she’d admitted.
We knew her accounting was way off just using simple addition and subtraction. But now Nikki Fried is asking us to accept that she had no idea there was a problem until a week before filing to run as governor. It’s just not true and we have the receipts to prove it.
Fried can’t have it both ways. Either she’s unethical and lying about her personal finances, or she can’t balance her own checkbook. The fact we figured it out without her help, and that we told her about it more than a year ago, suggests the problem is more the former than the latter.
Either way, if we can’t trust her to obey the law and be honest with voters about her personal finances, how can anyone trust her with Florida’s $100 billion state budget?
This week, State Senator Joe Gruters pointed out that she not only fudged her financial disclosures as a political candidate, but also as a private citizen when she was a lobbyist. Gruters made a strong case that Fried claimed significantly less income on her quarterly lobbying reports than she actually earned. Accordingly, Gruters has formally asked state lawmakers to investigate and get to the bottom of the matter. It’s about time. The public deserves answers, but Fried likely won’t provide them on her own.