Jimmy Patronis‘ CFO election campaign on Thursday said a Democratic opposition researcher “posed as Patronis to obtain his personal information through a third-party state vendor in May.”
The campaign released an investigative report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It identified the researcher as Jake Wagman, “a Democratic researcher paid by the Florida Democratic Party, which was paid by the CFO’s opponent Jeremy Ring.”
The FDLE had referred the case to the Office of Statewide Prosecution under Attorney General Pam Bondi, which declined to prosecute Wagman, the agency said. The phone at Bondi’s press office went unanswered Thursday morning.
From the FDLE report, however:
State Democratic Party executive director Juan Penalosa issued the following statement:
“No fraud was committed by Jake Wagman. Even the state’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who serves on the Florida Cabinet with Mr. Patronis, is not pursuing action, and Governor Scott’s Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation states “no evidence” of fraud existed.
“Mr. Patronis is trying to deflect from the fact that he was caught breaking the law using a taxpayer funded state car for campaign use, crashed the state car and then tried to cover it up.”
In a statement, Patronis said, “We already knew that Jeremy Ring is risky for Florida’s finances due to the companies that flopped with him at the helm, but now we know Jeremy Ring is not just risky, but reckless.
“The fact that he paid the Florida Democratic Party, which then paid Jake Wagman, the man FDLE concludes posed as me in order to access my personal information, is a sad new low in this race.
“While I am relieved that FDLE investigators do not believe Ring’s researcher was trying to steal from me, the fact that he entered my personal information through a page that required him to confirm that he was ‘Jimmy Patronis’ is disturbing for two reasons.
“First, it shows how far ‘Reckless Ring’ will go in this election, and second, it reveals loopholes in third-party state vendor agreements that must be addressed.
“I plan to pursue legislation in the upcoming legislative session that will close these loopholes and make important reforms to safeguard Florida citizens’ personal information from criminals.”
Ring, who did not address the allegations in the report, tweeted later Thursday morning that “the Patronis campaign is admitting that the only fraud committed here was when CFO Patronis used taxpayer resources for political activities and then tried to cover it up,” calling Patronis “Florida’s Chief Fraud Officer.”
It sounds like the Patronis campaign is admitting that the only fraud committed here was when CFO Patronis used taxpayer resources for political activities and then tried to cover it up until the press caught him red handed. Too bad Jimmy has become Florida’s Chief Fraud Officer.
— Senator Jeremy Ring (@JeremyRingFL) August 30, 2018
The FDLE’s investigation found that Wagman, “owner of Shield Political Research, based in South Bend, Indiana, purchased driver history transcripts from Unisoft for CFO Patronis using Patronis’ driver license number. The (information) provided by Unisoft Communications were un-redacted and contained (personal identifying information).”
His attorney later told an FDLE agent: “Jake’s only intent was to find traffic violation and driving records which are public record in the State of Florida. At no time did he act with any criminal intent in performing background research on any individual.”
The FDLE’s full investigative summary is below.
Senior Editor Jim Rosica and Capital correspondent Michael Moline contributed to this report from Tallahassee.