A Ritter Campaign Lie, Illustrated

Florida Elections Commission


Above you see a check written by Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter's 2008 campaign to the Tamarac Cafe Diner for a cool grand. Notice that it was supposed to be for a "campaign event."

That notation on the check is the first sign of deception by the Ritter campaign. You see, by that date, June 30, her campaign was finished. Ritter ran unopposed and the filing deadline had come on June 20, ten days before, for new candidates to enter office. She'd already won. Florida law severely limits what Ritter could spend money on after that date -- namely "thank you" advertising, unpaid bills, and the cost of shutting down the campaign. 

So what kind of event could she have held for a non-existent campaign?

Wh en Ritter submitted the required campaign report to the Broward Supervisor of Elections to explain the check, she claimed it was for a "thank you party": 

Broward Supervisor of Elections

A $1,000 "thank you party" might sneak by under the law, but there's one giant problem. FEC investigative reports show that it's a lie.

Inside see what that thousand dollars was really for (clue: it involves the leader of the free world).

Apparently the FEC became concerned about the alleged thank you party when it began investigating its election complaint againsst Ritter. When the state subpeonaed campaign records it specifically asked, in subsection (c), for "any and all contracts, receipts, invoices, cancelled checks, and other payment instruments pertaining to the 'Thank you party.'"

When her attorneys at the law firm of Messer Caparello & Self, Mark Herron and Michael Dutko Jr., responded to the subpoena on January 15, 2010, they included dozens of receipts. However when it came to the thank you party, Herron and Dutko wrote:



So if no receipts existed for the thank you party, then what was that thousand dollars at the Tamarac Cafe Diner really for? State investigators set out to answer that question, so they got in touch with the owner of the diner, Kostas Giannomoros. Here's what state investigator Margie B. Wade wrote in her report:



So it was really a "Obama Fellowship Program," which is clearly an illegal campaign expense -- and another example of Ritter using her own campaign fund to play the big shot with Barack Obama, for whom she served as chairwoman of his campaign in Broward and hoped to get a job in his Administration. Here's the invoice Giannomoros provided to the FEC:



Wow, they fed 200 people with a thousand bucks -- that wouldn't have Stacy and her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet more than a few nights out when they were financing their fancy dinner habit on the campaign. To hear President Obama himself talking about his fellowship program, click here.

Why is this so important? It shows obvious deception -- the Ritter campaign apparently unlawfully spent campaign money on an Obama event and then tried to cover it up by fabricating a "thank you party." Such chicanery is crucial in the State Attorney's Office criminal investigation of the campaign. This isn't just about $20,000-plus in extremely questionable expenses, it's about filing false and unlawful reports to conceal that spending. Remember that all the dubious dinners were never properly notated on campaign reports. Instead they were hidden in large reimbursed checks paid to Klenet and Ritter. The FEC has already found probable cause that Ritter violated the law by failing to specify those expenses on reports. Throw in the phone bills, the bogus thank you party, the spending after the campaign was finished, etc., and you have not only obvious illegal activity by the campaign but an overwhelming pattern of deception by the campaign to hide it from the county and state. 

And that's why prosecutors must act on this case.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault