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After Margaret Good stumble, House reminds staff not to campaign on state time

The Sarasota Democrats’ misdeeds may have prompted the reminder from House officials.

House leadership reminded legislative staff they can’t promote their bosses’ candidacies on the clock. A cautionary memo came a week after an aide for Rep. Margaret Good came under fire for running social media on the Sarasota Democrat’s campaign for Congress.

“As a reminder, legislative staff may not be paid to campaign while holding a position in a legislative office or use legislative resources for campaign purposes,” the message reads. “Examples of legislative resources include, but are not limited to, telephone lines and equipment, facsimile equipment, computers, electronic mail, copiers, printers, office supplies and legislative employee time during work hours.”

While the memo doesn’t name any state lawmaker in particular, the write-up came days after a Florida Politics story about District Secretary Kay Mathers administering Good’s political Facebook page.

“Margaret Good clearly does not understand that all federal candidates must keep a legal wall that separates their political operation from their official operation,” said Jessica Furst Johnson, a Washington, D.C.-based election law attorney who works with Republican PACs.

Good, while technically still filed for her state House seat, has filed to challenge incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan this fall. She’s the only Democrat to qualify in Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

Mathers, who is no longer an administrator for the campaign page, pushed back at the time. In a tweet aimed at this reporter and Buchanan’s campaign manager, Max Goodman, she asserted any campaign work for Good will be done on her own time.

“Tomorrow I will begin publicly documenting all of my breaks during the day while I am at home so @MaxJGoodman and @jacobogles can rest easier,” she wrote. “Are we good with that boys?”

That prompted local Republican operatives, including communications specialist Rod Thomson to read the words as a confession.

“Sure sounds like you just admitted breaking federal law by working on @GoodforFlorida campaign while on the state taxpayer dime,” Thomson tweeted. “Also how do you explain listing your legislative office phone # and posting official letters on her campaign page?”

Good’s legislative office is not listed as a contact number on the page but screenshots indicate that was previously the case.

The memo from the House Majority Office addresses limits for office communications like mass emails, newsletters and mail during campaign season.

“As we approach the June qualifying period, please be mindful of the Administrative Policy Manual rules regarding mass communications in an election year,” reads a memo issues by the House Majority Office.

“Beginning on June 12, 2020, and lasting until the General Election, Members seeking re-election to the Legislature will be unable to use legislative resources, the Member Expense Allowance account, or the Intradistrict Expense Allowance Account to create, print or distribute mass communications, including those distributed in an electronic format.”

That date marks the last day candidates can qualify for state office in Florida.”

The House memo, from Republican leadership, doesn’t address any potential misconduct on the part of staff taking place ahead of the qualifying deadline. It states there will be no moratorium on staff communications for lawmakers who are unopposed this year, and that such communications will be fine after a primary if a lawmaker faces no general election opposition.

The memo does lay out a process to check communications where staff may have questions.

“In order to accommodate the approval of mass communications for Members prior to that deadline, we ask that you get any requests into the Majority Office in a timely manner. Last-minute approvals will not be guaranteed,” the memo reads.

Written By

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 jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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