Are Scott Maddox’s financial supporters mad that he spent $125,000 in political donations on legal fees arising from the federal investigation into Tallahassee’s City Hall?
Not especially, judging from conversations with some of those supporters.
“I don’t blame him for using it for that. It doesn’t bother me,” said Kevin Collins, a Tallahassee real estate agent who contributed $500.
Added Karen Koelemij, president of Orange State Construction Inc., “Whenever you give money to a politician, you don’t know how they’re going to spend it.”
She gave Maddox, a Democrat, $500 because she liked his record as mayor of Tallahassee. Her brother, Kevin Koelemij, also was an aide to Maddox when he was the city’s ‘leadership’ mayor.
“No objection at all,” attorney Reginald Garcia, another $500 donor, said. “I understand Commissioner Maddox got a legal opinion stating it was a permissible campaign-related expense. His lawyer. Mr. Stephen Dobson, is a former FDLE agent and assistant U.S. attorney, so Scott is in good hands.”
Florida Politics reached out to people who contributed money to the city commissioner’s 2016 campaign for Leon County school superintendent. Maddox dropped out of that race and rolled the contributions into a state Senate campaign planned for 2020. The seat he was aiming for is now held by Democrat Bill Montford, whose term is up then.
With an FBI corruption investigation pending, Maddox nearly zeroed out that campaign chest with his March 23 payment to the Baker Donelson law firm. He said he got a legal opinion that the expenditure was legally proper, and considered it necessary to keep his Senate hopes alive.
Maddox’s contributors include people well familiar with the political process, both at the Capitol and at City Hall, as well as retired public employees and homemakers.
Collins described Maddox as an old friend. They grew up in Tallahassee and attended high school together. “He’s somebody I’ve known for a long time. I just chose to support him,” he said.
Collins has given to a range of candidates over the years, and said he understands these gifts as expressing broad support for their careers. “It depends on the candidate,” he said. “It could be a personal relationship. It could be somebody I’ve known for a long time. I’m going to support their political positions.”
Koelemij takes the same approach. She doesn’t consider herself “heavy-duty into politics,” and doesn’t want a refund.
“You put them on the honor system, but when you give them the money, you give them the money,” she said.