DAVIS LAW HIRED TO INVESTIGATE DARK MONEY IN FLORIDA POLITICS
The Florida State Senate District 9 Race is shaping up to be the most expensive state race in this election. The Florida State Senate District 9 covers all of Seminole County and part of southwest Volusia County. The race is between Republican Jason Brodur and Democrat Patricia Sigman.
A dark money entity known as Floridians for Equality and Justice has been spewing false information in mass mailings. This mysterious entity lists its business address at a Miami UPS location (coincidentally, the same location used by two previous republican campaigns). This dark money group filed with the Division of Elections after it had already mailed out flyers and emails designed to smear Patricia Sigman. In one of the more egregious mailing efforts, this group unlawfully used State Senator Annette Taddeo’s image in a false information mailer. Senator Taddeo has hired Davis Law as local counsel to investigate the origins of this dark money mystery group. Despite having nearly a quarter of a million dollars in its bank account, there is no information yet on where this outfit gets its money or how much is being spent. The treasurer of this group, Stephen Jones, likewise remains an enigma. The phone number listed in the state filings, like the address are not traceable and no one knows who is behind this dark money scheme. This entity, Floridians for Equality and Justice has a website which is registered to a proxy company. It alleges that it “seeks to educate and highlight dynamic progressive issues across the state of Florida regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs or citizenship status”. The same “progressive” entity lists no members, has no contact information and only includes links to news stories. The progressive organizations which are mentioned on this outfit’s website include Equality Florida and Ruth’s List Florida. They have no knowledge of the group or its activities. Interestingly, this group’s listed address, 1421 S.W. 107th Avenue in Miami is actually a UPS store location that was also used in 2016 by republican State Senator Anitere Flores and in 2020 by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Jimenez.
Senator Annette Taddeo of Miami represents the 40th District encompassing Kendall and surrounding areas in southern Miami-Dade County. Despite Senator Taddeo being a strong supporter of candidate Patricia Sigman, the shadowy group, Floridians for Equality and Justice sent out mailers claiming that Senator Taddeo supported another candidate in the race and wrongfully used her photograph.
“I am outraged this organization would use my likeness to promote a candidate I do not support!”, declared Senator Annette Taddeo. “Patricia Sigman has my endorsement because she is the only candidate in this race who has a proven track record of fighting on behalf of central Floridians. Dark money attacks have no place in a democratic primary, and a real progressive would never resort to using dark money in an election.”
Senator Taddeo has hired Davis Law to assist Tallahassee lawyer, Mark Herron to investigate this dark money entity and expose the source of their money.
To commence the investigation, the lawyers filed what is known as a Pure Bill of Discovery. The pure bill of discovery is an ancient equitable remedy which seeks relief in the form of discovery. In this case, it was filed to obtain disclosure of facts within the dark money Defendant’s knowledge, including written materials and other documents in this entity’s custody or possession. This unusual tactic only seeks discovery – no other remedy unlike a normal lawsuit. In Florida the Pure Bill of Discovery dates back to the 1882 case of B.H. Thrasher v. Doig & Geiger, 18 Fla. 809 (Fla. 1882). In 1927, the legislature adopted former Florida Statute 90.17 and 90.18 which allowed for interrogatories and depositions in cases of law under certain circumstances. While these statutes were intended to be a substitution for the equitable bill of discovery, they were limited to discovery of “essential matters” not to make the “opposite party a witness to testify respecting the whole case”. See May v. Whitehurst, 144 So. 326 (Fla. 1932). Despite the current civil practice in Florida making it unnecessary to initiate a separate equitable action to obtain discovery, Florida has never abrogated the complaint for a pure bill of discovery. According to The Florida Bar, a complaint for a pure bill of discovery, while not obsolete, has limited use in today’s legal environment. It has said that this archaic device has its place in the toolbox of modern-day lawyers under limited circumstances. The action filed by Senator Taddeo seeking a pure bill of discovery against Floridians for Equality and Justice and Stephen Jones, as chairman and treasurer of a Florida political committee is a prime example of its applicable use.* Civil E-Filing: Filing # 111991126 E-Filed 08/18/2020 02:29:39 PM
So far, a return of service from the process server has indicated that the UPS store which this group claims is its address in State filings, UPS has no such record of the entity. Additionally, efforts to locate Stephen Jones have been unsuccessful.
Where did the nearly $250,000 for this committee come from? Who are the owners? Who are the people involved and why are they hiding? Was an entity related to the opposition candidate somehow involved? The search for the truth continues. Davis Law is proud to assist Senator Taddeo in her lawful efforts to pull this shadowy entity out into the sunlight. Transparency is essential for the political process to function.
As Patrick Henry famously said, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
Davis Law is proud to be associated with the search for truth!