U.S. Rep. Ross Spano is under fire again for illegal campaign contributions he accepted in 2018 when he was first elected to Congress.
Scott Franklin, who is challenging Spano in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, is out with a digital ad highlighting Spano’s admission of wrongdoing, claiming the contributions were a mistake.
“So in short, what had happened was, uh, I took a personal loan from friends and then I loaned that money to the campaign,” the ad shows Spano saying in a February interview with WTSP reporter Rob Finnerty.
A narrator then declares, “that’s a federal crime.”
“A crime that enriched Ross Spano’s campaign by nearly $200,000.”
Finnerty then asks Spano how he could not know the contributions were illegal, given his experience as a State Representative.
“Trust me, if I had known, why in the world would I have put myself through this for the last year,” Spano answers.
Finnerty responds with a loaded retort.
“Congressman, maybe because you needed the money to win the election.”
At issue are two loans Spano accepted from friends during his 2018 congressional campaign. Spano borrowed $70,000 from Karen Hunt and $110,000 from Cary Carreno through four personal loans, then contributed the money to Ross Spano for Congress through installments between May 3 and Oct. 29.
The problem with that is, while candidates can loan their campaign personal funds, using loans from friends to then finance a campaign is a violation of campaign contribution limits. For congressional seats that limit is $2,700, far below what Hunt and Carreno loaned Spano.
Spano has since repaid some of the loans, an effort to remedy his mistake, which he blamed on faulty advice from a previous campaign adviser. Still, Spano is under federal investigation for the blunder.
“Ross Spano engineered an illegal contribution to his campaign to win an election,” the narrator continues in the ad, funded by Franklin’s campaign.
“He calls it a ‘mistake.’ The law calls it a crime.”
The ad then goes on to argue that “whether Spano’s incompetent or corrupt, he shouldn’t be your Congressman.”
The winner of the Republican primary will take on either Rep. Adam Hattersley or former investigative journalist Alan Cohn in November.
If Spano emerges from the Republican primary victorious, he will face much of the same criticism heading into the general. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already made Spano’s illegal contributions part of its effort to make him a one-term Congressman, an effort they list as one of their top 2020 targets.