Hmmm: Federal grand jury subpoena takes aim at Gillum's 2018 campaign

Throughout his campaign in Florida’s gubernatorial election, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum insisted that he was not a target of a federal corruption investigation. Now, however, a federal grand jury has taken a keen interest in Gillum and his 2018 campaign. The Tampa Bay Times reports that a subpoena demands records from the campaign as well as from a former employer and a non-profit where Gillum worked:

Andrew Gillum is a focal point of a recently issued federal grand jury subpoena that demands information on the former Democratic candidate for governor, his campaign, his political committee, a wealthy donor, a charity he worked for and a former employer.

The subpoena, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and previously unreported, could reflect a new level of federal inquiry into Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee who narrowly lost to Republican Ron DeSantis last year. …

Previously, the investigation had centered on corruption inside Tallahassee government, including during Gillum’s time as mayor. The newer subpoena is more focused on Gillum’s 2018 campaign and people and organizations with clear ties to Gillum, but with less obvious connections to Tallahassee city hall.

Tallahassee’s ABC affiliate has more on the subpoena:

The subpoena also demands information on:

John H. Jackson, the president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a Massachusetts based non-profit. Gillum was listed as a board member on the non-profit’s website until March 2017. Also on the subpoena is a related organization, Opportunity to Learn Action Fund. Gillum was president of that non-profit as recently as 2017, according to its tax documents.

Donald Sussman, an investor and philanthropist who donated $1.5 million to Gillum’s bid for governor. Harris Parnell, a donor adviser who has worked for Sussman, is also named.

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a long-time friend and adviser to Gillum who is currently the CEO of the National Black Justice Commission, a black LGBTQ advocacy group. She served with Gillum on the board of the Schott Foundation. Her public relations firm, P&P Communications, is also listed in the subpoena.

It’s not clear yet that Gillum is the specific target of a federal investigation, but he seems to be the dot through which all of this connects. It’s also not clear if this is an extension of the existing federal probe into corruption in Tallahassee that has already resulted in three convictions, or if this is something entirely new. Either way, it’s bad news for Gillum, at least politically, as well as for the people and entities connected to him.

The Orlando Sentinel reminded readers of the known federal probe:

But during the campaign, Gillum fended off questions surrounding an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee city government while he was mayor, saying he met with investigators and was told he wasn’t the focus of the investigation.

An undercover FBI investigator posed as a developer looking to secure a project, and accompanied Gillum and other city officials on a trip to New York, even providing him with tickets to the “Hamilton” Broadway musical.

Gillum recently agreed to pay a $5,000 ethics fine relating to those issues and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

So far the FBI sting has resulted in more than 40 counts each against Scott Maddox, a former Tallahassee city commissioner and former Florida Democratic Party chairman, Paige Carter-Smith, a Maddox associate, and JT Burnette, a Tallahassee developer.

Gillum’s settlement took place only a month ago, as the Tallahassee Democrat notes. They also provide a few more details about the subpoena that suggests it might be an entirely new investigation:

A source familiar with the matter told the Tallahassee Democrat that the subpoena is dated March 26. It asks that information be returned to FBI agent Michael Wiederspahn, whose name has not appeared on previously reported federal subpoenas in the Tallahassee investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kunz, who is heading up the Maddox prosecution, also is listed on the document.

That’s curious indeed. If the timing is correct, it suggests that Gillum settled his previous issues while the government was actively subpoenaing records in another matter. Maybe Gillum’s legal team felt that the new subpoena posed no risks and decided to deal with the extant issues at the time. Or perhaps the feds settled the other case cheaply because they had something much juicier in the pipeline on Gillum.

Which will it be? It will likely be a long while before we find out. The feds won’t talk about an open investigation, and Gillum’s denials won’t be credible in the least. It would be fascinating, though, to know who leaked the subpoena.