It should come as no surprise that Chaz Stevens “Genius” and writer for the Broward New Times and myactsofsedition.com (MAOS) exposed the illegal check-writing for campaign material by William Rankin. As a writer who constantly investigates wrong-doing by local politicians, Chaz’s efforts through MAOS have at times resulted in the removal and indictments of politicians behaving badly.
What is a shock, however, is how the Florida Democratic Party leadership is still touting Rankin as their go-to candidate for the State of Florida Chief Financial Officer job that is entrusted with the oversight and management of billions of Floridian tax dollars, ignoring warnings and demands for Rankin’s withdrawal from running by South Florida Democrats.
The check is just one example of William Rankin’s disregard for accountability and honesty. The Democrat candidate, running against incumbent Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (R), has a dubious background and has bloated his experience to compete for the CFO job. For now, far as it has been communicated, Rankin is fully supported by the Florida Democratic Party and their County Committee leaders.
Names such as Terrie Rizzo, John Ramos, Alan Clamendine, Dr. Deandre Poole, Joshua Karp, and Allison Tant, all heavy-hitting players at the state and county-level Democratic Party organizational chart, have stood behind, and stood by, Rankin’s endorsement by the Democratic Party while he continues to raise and mismanage his campaign funds, running for the job as Chief Financial Officer for which he is unqualified.
Those same Democratic leaders have disregarded the warnings and red-lights brought to their attention by a number of attorneys, writers, and political organizers in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, with the lame excuse that their bylaws prevent them from looking into his background, then spinning and claiming they did vet the candidate. All in all, my only conclusion is that someone high on the totem pole is lying to the public and the Democratic Party is clearly endorsing a candidate they never properly vetted.
Campaign finance law is critically important not only for the candidate and the state, but also for the voters. Finance laws are in place to protect the voting public from being fleeced by greedy politicians, hungry for power and willing to say anything to get into the government good-ol’-boys club that will guarantee them future income, benefits and (at times) unilateral control of agencies affecting the rights and lives of millions.
Attorney Marc Reiner of West Palm Beach was one of the early insiders that warned the Democratic Party officials of Rankin’s issues, including numerous phone calls to Joshua Karp, Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party in Tallahassee (who evidently has a problem communicating), text messages to Terrie Rizzo, Chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Committee (who clearly supports the state DEC’s position), and a direct email to Allison Tant, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman, (who has also failed to respond). But Marc Reiner wasn’t the only one to raise questions.
Other Democrats and myself (the token Republican), had urged action from the Democratic leadership and the withdrawal of perceived endorsements by the DEC without acknowledgment. Also spearheading the warnings about Rankin’s behavior were West Palm Beach Democratic Club Board President Jim Gibbs and the WPB Democratic Club’s Board Secretary, attorney Jacqueline Delgado (who has since resigned from her position in protest to the DEC’s endorsement of Rankin). This was a bi-partisan call for action, ignored by the Florida Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party endorsement of Rankin has been most notable by Palm Beach County DEC Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo and John Ramos, State Committeeman for the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. Both have insisted that Rankin was vetted by the state DEC and is the right candidate for the multi-billion dollar management job.
Instead of taking care of this problem, the leaders pointed their finger at imaconstitutionalist (that’s me) because I’m a Republican, and accused the whistle blowers of working for Atwater. Queue ‘Who’s Crying Now?’
It was upon receipt of a copy of the check from us that Parliamentarian for the Palm Beach County Democratic Committee Hon. Ira Raab said while shaking his head, “This is not okay.” He sent the check to the Florida Democratic Party this past week. They have not issued any statements thus far, and Rankin is still their candidate.
“If you run for the state’s CFO [position] then it’s absurd to ask for volunteers and fundraisers, much less a citizen to vote for you, when you don’t follow basic criminal laws governing campaign finance,” Reiner stated in an email to imaconstitutionalist.
The check displayed on MAOS, and reported to the Florida Democratic Party by the above people, has serious (and very possibly criminal) flaws, according to Reiner, Delgado, Gibbs and Raab.
The check in the amount of $227.90 was, as noted on the memo line of his personal check clearly, for “campaign flyers reimbursement.” This check was for the flyers used for dispersal to the public, and the language on the flyer has also been copied and pasted onto his ever-evolving campaign website. The “About” section on his website keeps, well… changing. It’s as though Rankin is as unclear about himself as he is about what laws govern his campaign finance activities.
Members of the group that were with Rankin in West Palm Beach on the day he wrote the check insisted that he could NOT issue a check from his personal account for marketing material, since this was not an in-kind gift, but a purchase of his campaign flyers. Rankin waived off their warnings, and said, “I made a call. It’s fine.” Did his Treasurer, Jay Needleman, CPA, tell Rankin it was okay? Uh-oh.
The first issue is that Rankin’s bank account for his campaign finances that’s on record with the state is for an account with Sun Trust Bank. That bank account is claimed to be his “Primary Campaign Account.” There is no “Secondary Campaign Account” on record with the state that acknowledges Rankin’s personal checking account with USAA Credit Union, on which the check under investigation was drawn.
Next is the statutory problem. When William Rankin signed and filed his “Statement of Candidate” form, he acknowledged that he was “provided access to read and understand the requirements of Chapter 106, Florida Statutes.” Well, maybe he didn’t really ‘get it’ when he signed off on this form.
Attorney Reiner pointed to the Florida Statutes Chapter 106, which governs campaign finance and activity.
Specifically, the Florida Statute 106.011(5)(a) defines the following: “Independent expenditure” means an expenditure by a person for the purpose of expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate or the approval or rejection of an issue, which expenditure is not controlled by, coordinated with, or made upon consultation with, any candidate, political committee, or agent of such candidate or committee. I imagine that’s the defense that will be used here by Rankin.
The pieces are falling together…
This now explains why, when speaking to the caucus leadership in Lake Worth on Veteran’s Day, Rankin directed them to print up marketing materials and to “say whatever you want about me” in them. Not only does his manipulative, laissez faire approach give him plausible deniability, but it also can been viewed as an independent expenditure. Oh Rankin, you wily dog, you!
Additional problems for Rankin are covered under Chapter 106.07(5), F.S., governing campaign finance reporting, clearly outlining the protocol for reporting expenditures and defining what would be considered in-kind and detailing the procedures required for general expenditures that must be paid for through the tracked account on record with the state. Failure to report expenditures is also viewed as punishable negligence and/or willful disregard by a candidate. Needless to say, Rankin has failed to properly file and has yet to respond to the Amendment and Corrections Notice that was sent by the State of Florida Elections Commission.
Reiner further expressed that ignorance is not a defense, and the statutes are clear: you must use a campaign account for campaign expenditures, unless the expense is an in-kind donation of products or services. But Rankin already acknowledged that he is fully aware of the FEC and Florida Statutes, so he can’t use the ignorance excuse.
Rest assured, Rankin’s not the only one. The Florida Elections Committee holds accountable other politicians pulling the same shenanigans.
A case filed on December 1, 2006, FEC v. JoAnne Ricardi, Agency Case No. FEC 05-302, found a Flagler Beach defeated 2005 mayoral candidate guilty for having her husband purchase her rack cards and political signs from his personal account. The state cited “reckless and willful disregard” for the law.
Another case similar to Rankin’s situation based in Orlando, Florida, in 2007, discussed by the law firm Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell’s partners Daniel J. Gerber and Suzanne Barto Hill resulted in the guilty charge of a first degree misdemeanor and a $1,000 monetary fine to the candidate involved cutting checks from a joint, personal checking account. In the http://www.rumberger.com/?t=11&la=659&format=xml case cited on the Rumberger website, the “FEC rejected the candidate’s argument that this was an ‘independent expenditure’.” The Rumberger Firm’s partners wrote, “Here the candidate’s husband was acting in furtherance of his wife’s campaign, was active in her campaign, and bought the signs with their joint funds. These facts made clear that the husband was not making an independent expenditure, but was acting directly on behalf of his wife’s campaign.”
So how much longer with the Florida Democratic Party support William D. Rankin? The answer is unclear. One thing, however, is certain: Jeff Atwater must love this debacle…. and so does the rest of the Florida Republican Party.
His campaign Treasurer, Jay M. Needleman, a CPA out of Miami, Allison Tant, Chairwoman for the Florida Democratic Party, and Joshua Karp, Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party have not responded to requests for answers. John Ramos still supports Rankin.