Well, things have certainly become interesting in Florida’s gubernatorial election. Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum is facing an FBI investigation into Tallahassee corruption, where he currently serves as mayor. Gillum is part of the left-wing slice of the Democratic Party in the vein of Bernie Sanders, especially on policy. In September, word was spreading that an FBI probe was in the works (via Tampa Bay Times):
When Andrew Gillum won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in a stunning upset last week, it catapulted the small capital city's mayor — and his unabashedly progressive, Bernie-Sanders-backed platform — into the national political spotlight overnight.
But his victory has also brought that bright glare to a years-long, ongoing federal probe of alleged public corruption in Tallahassee involving development deals and City Hall, which is expected to remain a major battering ram for the GOP against the unexpected Democratic nominee.
Though speculation has outpaced publicly released evidence around the probe — which appears to have narrowed in on several prominent locals including a former Gillum ally and a city commissioner — Republican strategists began leveraging it against Gillum just moments after he was anointed to lead the Democrats' state ticket.
Gillum has repeatedly said he was told by the FBI he is not the target of its investigation and, after meeting with the Florida Commission on Ethics Tuesday morning, he released receipts from two trips he took that have drawn attention because of the probe.
The story of the FBI investigation long preceded Gillum's decision in early 2017 to run for governor. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, agents came to town as early as 2015, acting as businessmen looking at investments in the city. Under the pseudonyms Mike Sweets, Mike Miller and Brian Butler, they interacted for months with local officials and their partners, including longtime Gillum friend and lobbyist Adam Corey.
During a heated debate between Republican Ron De Santis, the tickets to the play Hamilton came up:
Questions about Gillum's trip to New York have dogged the candidate since the primary, with his Republican opponent, former Congressman Ron DeSantis, repeatedly linking Gillum to the FBI probe.
During Sunday's debate, DeSantis asked Gillum about the tickets.
"Did you pay for the Hamilton tickets?" DeSantis asked.
Gillum avoided directly answering the question.
"First of all, I am a grown man," Gillum replied. "My wife and I take vacations and we pay for our own vacations … I don't take free trips from anybody. I'm a hard-working person, I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do, but I've worked hard for everything that I've gotten in my life."
Gillum and Corey have known each other since college, and the two were friends until last year, when Gillum said he wasn't speaking to him any more.
BREAKING: New documents reveal Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum lied about accepting tickets to the Broadway show Hamilton from an undercover FBI agent https://t.co/UoV81VAZCW— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) October 23, 2018
Yet, new texts show that Gillum knew the tickets came from undercover FBI agent, “Mike Miller.” And this is where Gillum comes in conflict with the truth. He originally said he found out his brother was the one who bought the tickets (via NRO):
Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate, was aware that tickets he received to a Broadway show were purchased by an undercover FBI agent he thought was a land developer, according to more than 100 pages of records given to the state ethics commission and released to the public Tuesday.
The records, which were provided to the commission by an attorney representing Adam Corey, a lobbyist and longtime friend of Gillum’s, include text-messages between Corey and Gillum, and indicate that Gillum lied on numerous occasions in claiming he was unaware who purchased the tickets when he attended the play.
“Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m.,” Corey texted Gillum on Aug. 10, 2016, referring to one of the two undercover FBI agents who attended the trip to New York while posing as land developers with business before the city.
“Awesome news about Hamilton,” Gillum replied.
The ethics commission is currently probing trips Gillum took to New York and Costa Rica that were arranged by Corey.
In a September 4 press release issued after the FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee city government came to light, Gillum’s campaign claimed he learned after the trip to New York that his brother, who also attended the trip, bought the tickets.
“After the trip, Mayor Gillum learned Marcus Gillum had obtained that ticket in a swap with Adam Corey for a concert ticket,” the press release read.
The race is tilting toward Gillum, who holds a slight lead over DeSantis by less than five points, but we’ll see if this has any impact. I doubt it; given how close we are to zero hour for the 2018 cycle. FBI investigations take a long time—we all know this—so don’t count on any new developments in this corruption probe to drop any time soon. But it seems dirty Gillum has been caught red-handed.