Last week, U.S. Rep. Ross Spano got called out by Republican primary opponent Scott Franklin for using taxpayer dollars to promote himself on Facebook.
This week, his campaign defended its use of more than $117,000 in public money to buy ads featuring Spano’s face and political messages, not by denying they were political, but by pointing to their technical legality.
Candidates are allowed to use their budgets to communicate with constituents about government issues, though they usually are blocked from doing so within 90 days of an election.
The CARES Act changed that under the pretense that members of Congress should be able to reach out to their constituents during a public health emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic.
“We make no apologies for keeping all FL-15 constituents informed since the pandemic began,” Spano’s communications director, Daniel Bucheli, told the Lakeland Ledger. “Had anyone bothered to do the least bit of research, they would have known that we are currently under a House Administration exception which allows for COVID-19 communications with our constituents.”
That’s rich, considering that if anyone involved with Spano’s 2018 congressional campaign did “the least bit of research” on campaign finance law the Congressman wouldn’t be under investigation the U.S Department of Justice and the Florida Bar for accepting illegal campaign loans.
Spano has spared no expense exploiting the loophole, if it even is one. Hint: It isn’t.
The rules state the blackout exemption applies solely to communications that “serve the bona fide purpose of protecting life and safety.”
On what planet does an ad touting Spano as “pro-business and pro-family” save lives? The only way Spano could more egregiously flout the rules is if he put out a video telling senior citizens to lick doorknobs.
What’s really happening here is the same thing that happened in 2018. Spano doesn’t know how to raise money, so he’ll bend or break all the rules in the book to make up for it.
But maybe Spano is right. From a certain vantage point, the ads do tell CD 15 voters what their representative is doing for them: Absolutely nothing.