Florida launches dark money investigation into group that funded 'ghost' candidates to tilt elections toward GOP: report

Florida launches dark money investigation into group that funded 'ghost' candidates to tilt elections toward GOP: report
Image via Monroe County BOCC / Wikimedia Commons

A Florida state agency responsible for regulating charities has launched an investigation into a non-profit organization that allegedly used dark money to promote "ghost" election candidates in critical Senate races, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

On Friday, January 21, Nikki Fried, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, released a statement about the investigation which will determine if the organization, known as Let’s Preserve the American Dream, violated Florida law regarding funding solicitation.

“As always, our department will enforce the law to the fullest extent to protect consumers,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “Our Consumer Services team is currently investigating whether this entity was previously operating in violation of Chapter 496, Florida Statutes, and we are unable to comment further at this time.”

The investigation reportedly centers on LPAD's association with some of the biggest businesses in the state of Florida and how its donations may have been used to fund ghost campaigns to tilt elections in Republicans' favor.

Per the Orlando Sentinel:

"The records show that the nonprofit, 'Let’s Preserve the American Dream,' wired $600,000 on Sept. 29, 2020, to another nonprofit, 'Grow United Inc.' Grow United then used that money to send $550,000 to a pair of political committees that paid for mailers touting independent candidates in three important Senate races, in what authorities say was a ploy to confuse voters and tilt the races to Republicans."

Transcripts of an interview show that Ryan Tyson, a Tallahassee-based Republican strategist and the executive director of LPAD, confirmed he ordered the $600,000 payment to Grow United.

Tyson also indicated that he told the political consultant overseeing Grow United "to expect a request for a donation from Alex Alvarado, another operative who worked for Tyson as a subcontractor to Let’s Preserve the American Dream — and who records show set up the two political committees that paid for the ghost candidate advertising."

However, he insists he had no control over Grow United's transferring the funds to Alvarado’s political committees.

“Did you know when this $600,000 was sent to Grow United... that $550,000 of it was going to go to Alex Alvarado’s two political committees?” Miami-Dade County Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen asked Tyson.

He responded saying, "I had a hunch they’d help him."

Tyson later added, “I assume they’d probably be supportive if Alex called. but I had no way to know if they actually would. Because once I make a contribution to an entity, I lose control of how they spend that money.”

Investigators are seeking to determine whether or not LPAD violated election and campaign finance laws.

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