Gillum’s explanations about two trips don’t add up

The bottom may be dropping out of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s explanation behind who paid for two 2016 trips he took with lobbyists. Gillum’s campaign released limited receipts Tuesday for the trips to Costa Rica and New York.

The two trips are being separately investigated by the FBI as part of an ongoing public corruption probe and the Florida Ethics Commission. Both trips center around one person: a Tallahassee lobbyist, Adam Corey, who is a key figure in the FBI’s investigation.

Gillum said in a news release that he paid $400 cash for a May 2016 trip he and his wife took to a posh resort in Costa Rica. A total of twelve people, including two lobbyists, stayed four nights at the $1400 a night resort. Broken down, that’s $466.67 per person for the stay. To comply with state ethics laws, Gillum would be required to pay for both himself and his wife — a total of $933.33 — meaning Gillum apparently underpaid by more than $500 for the trip.

The Gillum campaign released a copy of a hotel bill for the August 2016 trip to New York. Gillum was there for meetings with his former employer, People for the American Way Foundation, which apparently paid for his first two nights in New York. What’s unknown is who paid for a Statue of Liberty boat tour, tickets to the Broadway show “Hamilton” and tickets to a New York Mets baseball game.

A previously released photo shows Gillum and Corey on a boat together. They were joined by a third person — an undercover FBI agent. Neither Corey nor Gillum was aware the third person was a federal law enforcement officer. They knew him by his cover: an out-of-town businessman looking to develop projects in Tallahassee.

In Gillum’s statement he claimed to have been given the ticket to the Hamilton show by his brother, Marcus, who was also on the trip. Mayor Gillum claims Marcus traded another concert ticket with Corey for the Broadway show.

However, Corey’s attorney, Christopher Kise, disputed Gillum’s explanation for both trips. Regarding the Costa Rica trip, Kise told The Associated Press, “To date Mr. Corey has not received any cash from the mayor.” On the ticket swap for the Broadway show, Kise added, “The idea that Marcus Gillum would have exchanged something for the Hamilton ticket is nonsense.”

Gillum’s Republican opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, was quick to pounce on the unresolved ethical issues. “It becomes clearer by the day why the FBI is interested in Andrew Gillum and his associates. These receipts do nothing to shed light on his luxury trips to Costa Rica and New York City with lobbyists and undercover FBI agents, “said Stephen Lawson, DeSantis’ spokesperson. “In fact, they simply raise more questions about Gillum’s ongoing involvement. The people of Florida deserve answers, and Andrew Gillum keeps refusing to provide them.”

Gillum has long asserted he is not the subject of the FBI investigation, and in Tuesday’s statement he said the focus was on “another elected official.” That other elected official is presumably Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox, according to a federal search warrant that was accidentally released in February.

Even if he’s not the subject of the FBI’s investigation, these revelations could harm Gillum’s standing in the governor’s race. A new Gravis Marketing poll released Tuesday gives Gillum a two-point lead over DeSantis. He’s been riding high since he won the Democratic nomination for governor one week ago. Appearing on national TV talk shows, Gillum has become the new face for the progressive movement. He, however, remains largely unknown to the majority of Floridians.

 

David Bishop is a native Floridian, husband and father. During his 30 year career, David has been a journalist, political operative and communications consultant.