Three Florida Republicans indicted for election fraud in 2020 'ghost candidate' scheme: report

Three Florida Republicans indicted for election fraud in 2020 'ghost candidate' scheme: report
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2021 Student Action Summit, hosted by Turning Point USA at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida (Gage Skidmore).

Three Florida Republicans have been charged with multiple counts of election fraud relating to the 2020 cycle.

A dozen charges against "Seminole County Republican Party Chair Ben Paris, political consultant Eric Foglesong, and former independent candidate Jestine Iannotti from Senate District 9 came down through indictments sought by the State Attorney for Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation," Florida Politics reported on Tuesday. "The investigation began in July 2021 after JC 18 State Attorney Phil Archer requested the FDLE look into the election."

Prosecutors allege that Iannotti ran as an independent “ghost candidate” to funnel votes away from Democrat Patricia Sigman in favor of Republican Jason Brodeur, who ultimately prevailed with 50.3 percent of the vote over Sigman's 47.5 percent. Iannotti, meanwhile, received 2.1 percent.

“Some NPA candidates, commonly referred to as ‘ghost’ candidates, have been used by political parties as a way to close elections or siphon off votes. While not illegal per se, many have questioned the ethics of the practice. However, when the candidate and the partisan political operatives involved violate election finance laws by illegally funding those races and filing false reports, it is the responsibility of government to act," Archer said in a press release. “Today’s actions represent our commitment to ensuring the integrity of Florida’s election process and holding those who violate state campaign laws accountable.”

FDLE Acting Commissioner Mark Glass's office explained in a statement that "Iannotti ran as an independent candidate for Florida State Senate District 9 in the 2020 election. The investigation showed that Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from Foglesong in support of her candidacy. Agents found that Iannotti and Foglesong falsely used the names of other individuals as contributors in official campaign finance documents reported to the Florida Department of State to skirt Florida laws on campaign contributions. Agents say that Paris provided the name and address of one of the individuals Iannotti and Foglesong falsely used in their official campaign reporting, even though Paris knew the individual had not contributed to the campaign."

Glass added that "elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must do everything we can to ensure they are fair and transparent. Protecting the integrity of our elections is a top priority in Florida, and that includes making sure candidates follow the laws.”

Arrest warrants have been issued for Foglesong and Iannotti, who are out on $4,500 and $10,000 bond, respectively, and have been ordered to surrender by May 25th.

The story continues here.

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