Thursday, September 24, 2020

Florida AG calls for criminal inquiry into Bloomberg’s $16M felon voter donation

09/23/2020 05:50 PM EDT
Updated 09/23/2020 06:49 PM EDT

lorida‘s Republican attorney general on Wednesday urged the FBI and state authorities to investigate former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg‘s pledge to spend $16 million helping convicted felons regain their voting rights in the nation’s largest swing state.

The attorney general, Ashley Moody, said in a letter to top law enforcement officials that she was asked by Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican, to review the donation Bloomberg announced on Tuesday. Moody said she quickly decided additional scrutiny was warranted.


State CFO Jimmy Patronis also called on Wednesday for an inquiry into Bloomberg’s effort, asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Bloomberg is "breaking the law by giving direct cash for voters."

A spokesperson for Bloomberg, who has pledged to spend $100 million in Florida to help Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump in the November election, accused Republicans of playing politics with voter rights. The billionaire former Republican made his own brief big this year to win the Democratic nomination for president.

“This transparent political ploy is just the latest example of Republicans attempting to keep Floridians disenfranchised,“ the spokesperson, Jason Schechter, said in a statement.

Florida voters in 2018 overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment ending the state’s lifetime ban on voting for most former prisoners. But the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature passed a law that requires felons to pay off any outstanding court debts before becoming eligible. One study estimates that nearly 775,000 felons still owe some form of fees, fines or restitution.


The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which was established as a nonprofit back in late 2018, set up a fees and fine fund to help people pay their court debts. Before the appeals court ruling the organization had raised more than $4 million, including a $100,000 donation from a voting rights group set up by NBA superstar LeBron James and other entertainers and athletes. In the nearly two weeks following the decision, the total amount of donations surged to more than $20 million — in large part due to Bloomberg‘s pledge.


Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said the Republicans “will stop at nothing to prevent people from voting.”

“Whether Mike Bloomberg, John Legend, or LeBron James, these are contributions made legally and in good faith to FRRC’s mission of helping people rightfully regain the right to vote,” Fried said in a statement. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue — more than 5 million Floridians on both sides of the aisle voted for this in 2018. "It’s unfortunate that the Republican Party views denying people the right to vote as a necessity in their path to victory in 2020."

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