Former gubernatorial challenger and rising Democratic star Andrew Gillum faces a 21-count federal indictment alleging he unlawfully solicited campaign contributions between 2016 and 2019 and promised political favors in exchange of financial support.
The time he is said to have broken the law includes his failed 2018 bid for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The 26-page indictment unsealed on Wednesday describes a series of interactions with two undercover FBI agents, who are not identified in court documents and who posed as developers for a company called Southern Pines Development. , who at the time was interested in contracts through the city of Tallahassee, where Gillum was mayor before running for governor.
Gillum, among others, solicited contributions from undercover agents after promising something “very significant in return,” according to the indictment. Gillum adviser Sharon Lettman-Hicks also faces 19 charges, including allegations that some of those contributions were funneled to a separate company she operates, P&P Communications, rather than helping. Gillum to run for governor.
Marc Elias, a well-known Democratic attorney representing Gillum, pushed back against the allegations in a statement he released before the federal charges were made public.
“The government got it wrong today,” Elias said. “The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges.”
In his own statement released by Elias, Gillum said he was facing political persecution.
“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity,” Gillum said. “Make no mistake, this case is not legal, it is political.”
Gillum was once considered a rising star in Florida Democratic politics, but was hammered by corruption-related attacks during the campaign and lost to DeSantis by about 40,000 votes after a recount.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the indictment, which was first reported by NBC News, was announced by Jason Coody, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. and a person appointed by President Joe Biden.
In one example described in the indictment, a Gillum associate identified as “Individual B” met in January 2017 with two undercover FBI agents in Nashville. Individual demanded $25,000 from an undercover agent “in relation to three projects that Individual B had proposed” in the city of Tallahassee, and demanded from the second agent $75,000 related to “three different projects” , according to the indictment, which does not specify who “Individual B” is or what work was contemplated.
A month later, the request for the full campaign contribution of $100,000 was accepted by an undercover agent and Gillum at a meeting in Jacksonville, and would be paid in two separate installments of $50,000 each. During this meeting, Gillum directly told one of the undercover FBI agents that he should “separate in his mind campaign contributions and Tallahassee projects.”
In a meeting that summer with FBI agents, which took place months after Gillum had already announced his candidacy for governor, Gillum reportedly promised city contracts in exchange for political contributions.
“During the conversation, Gillum falsely represented that representatives of Southern Pines had never offered Gillum anything or given Gillum anything, and that Gillum had ceased to have communications with representatives of Southern Pines about campaign contributions after their attempt to tie campaign contributions to support potential projects in Tallahassee,” the indictment reads.
A federal grand jury has been convened since at least November and has questioned several former Gillum campaign aides, a former aide told POLITICO on Wednesday interviewed by the FBI. Among the questions federal investigators asked about the person was money contributed by Donald Sussman, founder and chief investment officer of a Connecticut-based hedge fund and a major Democratic national donor.
The person, who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter, did not believe Sussman was being investigated for any wrongdoing – rather it was to show how a contribution from him to Gillum was central of the exam. A Sussman adviser did not return a request for comment to POLITICO.
Gillum has been the subject of political scrutiny and scandal for years, including being forced to retire from politics and public life in March 2020 after police found him in a bedroom Miami Beach hotel man too drunk to speak with man suspected of overdosing. Police found three bags of suspected crystal meth, but Gillum said he drank too much alcohol but did not use any drugs. Footage later emerged showing Gillum lying on the ground in his own vomit.
In a national television interview he gave to his wife six months after the incident, Gillum, who has three children, said he was bisexual and expressed remorse.
The city he once ruled has been under federal investigation since at least 2015, an investigation that ensnared the activities described in the unsealed indictment.
At the heart of that investigation was Gillum’s acceptance of undeclared gifts from lobbyists, including a 2016 trip to New York mentioned in the indictment. During the trip, undercover FBI agents posing as developers paid for his stay at the Millennium Hotel as well as food, drink, a boat ride around New York Harbor and tickets to the musical. “Hamiltons”.
Gillum had not previously faced any criminal charges, but had agreed to pay a $5,000 fine imposed by the Florida Ethics Commission related to the improper acceptance of gifts.