The first rule of redacting documents: Use scissors. Rule 1A: Failing that, use a black-ink marker heavy enough to actually cover up the redacted text. Andrew Gillum’s campaign didn’t pay attention to either rule and inadvertently exposed a $15,000 cash infusion just prior to a trip to Costa Rica that he took with a lobbyist, in records that were supposed to show that Gillum paid his own way.
Instead, that FBI investigation now looks a little closer to the Democratic nominee for governor in Florida:
When Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum released some records Tuesday related to two trips he took with a lobbyist in 2016, he was trying to clear the air around an FBI investigation that has clouded his campaign since before he became the Democratic nominee for Florida governor.
But the campaign, which uploaded several documents after Gillum met with a state ethics investigator Tuesday, released a poorly redacted printout of his bank statement among some invoices and receipts for Gillum’s trips to New York City and Costa Rica that year. The bank statement included a $15,000 deposit into his personal checking account. On the same page and not redacted was an entry showing a $400 cash withdrawal that the campaign says was cash used to pay for lodging in Costa Rica. …
When the bank statement was released, it appeared that the campaign intended to redact all of the transactions except for those ones relating to the trip. But the redactions didn’t completely cover most of the entries, allowing most of the transactions in his checking account between April 25 and May 23, 2016 to be read.
Follow over to the Miami Herald to see just how amateurish the redactions were. The campaign used both black and blue markers, and even in the scan one can see some of the text bleeding through the latter. Even worse, the campaign then highlighted the $400 cash withdrawal as a way to emphasize that Gillum paid for the lodging himself, even though it’s just down a couple of line items from the $15,000 deposit above it.
Needless to say, the attempt to hide it piqued the curiosity of the Herald and other outlets:
The Herald/Times asked Tuesday and multiple times Wednesday for an explanation of the large deposit. Gillum’s campaign did not provide an explanation until shortly after this story was published. It then released a statement saying the deposit “was a transfer from the mayor’s savings account into his joint checking account with his wife, an account they used to pay their bills.”
That should be easy to confirm. All the campaign needs to do is release the bank statements from Gillum’s savings account — this time unredacted, and including any deposits made into it in the weeks previous to the transfer. If those records support the claim that this was just Gillum moving money from one account to another, then no harm’s been done. But if that was the case, one has to wonder why they wanted to redact the entry in the first place.
If this wasn’t a transfer by Gillum between personal accounts, then there may be some serious legal consequences. Cash payments over $10,000 are supposed to be reported to the IRS, a requirement intended to curtail corrupt business practices. Criminal tax violations would give the FBI a lever by which they could press Gillum for greater cooperation in their corruption probe — or more likely put him at the center of it.
It’s not the first time that Gillum’s records have raised questions about his finances. Politico’s Matt Dixon notes that Gillum and the campaign have a track record of opacity when it comes to disclosures:
The statements also indicate that Gillum made a $500 “loan payment” on May 5, and 11 days later had a “reverse loan payment” for the same amount. Gillum’s campaign would not comment on the specifics of those transactions. In 2016, Gillum’s only listed liability on financial disclosure forms was the mortgage for his Tallahassee home. That $403,655 mortgage, which Gillum and his wife received in 2014, was not originally disclosed on his annual financial disclosure forms. Gillum amended those documents after POLITICO noted the failure to report in June. …
The lone portion of the bank statement that the Gillum campaign intended to release unredacted Tuesday night was a $400 cash withdrawal on May 3. Campaign officials wanted to highlight that transaction because they say it was used to pay for his portion of a $1,400-per-night resort during the Costa Rica trip. Gillum has long said publicly that he paid for his portion of the trip using cash. The trip also included Gillum’s wife, R. Jai, and lobbyists Adam Corey and Sean Pittman, both longtime Gillum friends. During the trip, Corey sent a meeting invite to Gillum to meet with a man known as “Mike Miller,” who is now believed to have been an undercover FBI agent.
But Christopher Kise, an attorney for Corey, who organized the trip, says Corey received no money for the accommodations, even though Gillum, who has met with ethics investigators, says cash payments were made.
“Adam Corey has not received any cash from or on behalf of the mayor for the Costa Rica accommodations,” Kise said Wednesday.
With all of this ambiguity and opacity in correlation with an FBI corruption probe into the city government Gillum runs in Tallahassee, it’s tough to avoid the conclusion that Gillum’s likely a part of that investigation. The FBI won’t name its targets as a matter of policy before indictments get issued, and Gillum keeps denying that the probe has anything to do with him. The botched redactions suggest, however, that perhaps it should.