Attack ad comparing Democrat Rick Singh with Donald Trump has GOP backing

Rick Singh mailer

Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh may be the first Democrat to be hit by opposition claims that he’s a Donald Trump clone — and it’s coming from a group partly funded by the Republican Party of Florida.

Singh, seeking re-election against Republican Edward DeAguilera, was the subject this week of another — a sixth or seventh — mailer to Orange County residents from outside groups painting him as corrupt. He’s also been targeted in internet and social media advertising by outside groups.

This mailer, from the Michael Millner-chaired Leadership for Florida’s Future political committee of Jensen Beach, accuses Singh of scandals including funneling money from his public position to his family’s charity, and of belonging to a Facebook group that demeans women. It features pictures of both Singh and Trump on both sides, and the words, “Rick Singh=Donald Trump.”

“Rick Singh has a lot in common with Donald Trump, Scandal. Dirty Deals. Disdain for Women,” the mailer reads.

Unlike several previous anti-Singh mailers, this one’s sources of backing are publicly documented and therefore clearly legal, and significantly Republican — Donald Trump’s party.

In the past few weeks, Orange County residents have received a flurry of anti-Singh mailers from the Sawyer Smith-chaired For A Better Orange County electioneering committee, which is registered in Orange County. Yet that committee had received all of its $208,000 from a committee that could be fictitious, the Florida Regulatory Policy Institute of Fort Myers. It does not appear to be registered as a corporation or committee anywhere in Florida. Consequently, the origins of the $208,000 paying for the anti-Singh campaign is not publicly documented anywhere.

In an interview last week, Singh characterized the opposition to him as “big business” upset with his efforts, as property appraiser, to, in his words, make sure Orange County big businesses pay their fair share of taxes. He declined to be specific.

This time, with the Donald Trump mailer, Singh’s opposition is a little clearer.

While Leadership for Florida’s Future’s sources of money are all documented, the exact source of money being funneled into opposing Singh is unclear. The group has raised all but $10,000 of its $1.15 million since late July, from a variety of sources, including several political action committees tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. But most of Leadership’s money — more than $800,000 — has come from the Tony Pedicini-chaired PAC Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy. That PAC has dozens of sources for the $2.4 million it’s collected — including the Republican Party of Florida, which donated as recently as two weeks ago.

DeAguillera’s own campaign has been far more limited, raising just under $100,000 so far, mostly from entities associated with Walt Disney World.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]



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