After CD 15 election, Danny Kushmer questions Ross Spano’s credibility

Ross Spano

Add Republican Danny Kushmer to the list of former opponents now questioning U.S. Rep.-elect Ross Spano’s credibility in the wake of an admission he violated campaign finance laws.

Kushmer, one of five candidates who ran in the Republican primary in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, endorsed Spano after losing the party nomination to the Dover pol.

But that was before Spano acknowledged he financed his campaign using personal loans.

“On May 4, (when) my wife and I drove to Tallahassee and qualified to run for Congress, we knew it would be difficult and we knew we would be up against career politicians with name recognition,” Kushmer said.

“But we didn’t know we would face an opponent willing to look us in the face and tell us about his values and ethics while at the same time subverting campaign finance laws.”

Spano’s attorneys wrote in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he used loans from associates Karen Hunt and Cary Carreno to cover candidate donations to his campaign. The law restricts contributions from individuals but allows candidates to put as much of their own money as they choose.

The Spano campaign maintains he acted on bad advice from a since-fired campaign treasurer, but the loans did not become public until they appeared in a financial disclosure filed by Spano days before the general election.

Some $70,000 in loans came to Spano while he was still engaged in the five-candidate Republican primary against Kushmer, Neil Combee, Ed Shoemaker and Sean Harper.

Kushmer notes the heated primary came together quickly after incumbent U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross announced his retirement. The race ultimately became one of the closest Congressional contests in Florida this year, between Spano and Democrat Kristen Carlson in the general election.

Despite Spano’s claimed ignorance of the law, he’s suffered wide, bipartisan criticism since admitting to use the funds. Even before he sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission, Carlson sent a letter to the FBI calling for a criminal investigation.

And Combee earlier this week called Spano a “criminal” who broke the law to win.

Kushmer questioned how Spano, an estates lawyer who previously ran for Attorney General and held a seat in the Florida House, could be ignorant of campaign finance law.

A release from Kushmer noted five of the eight candidates who ran in CD 15 never before ran for office, but understood the fundraising regulations.

Could the winner, a veteran politician, be the only one who failed to know the rules?

“After the primary, I met with Ross Spano and gave him my full support,” Kushmer said. “We discussed the next steps and I assured him I would help in every way possible to get him elected.

“Unfortunately, I did not know to what extent he was willing to go to win.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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