Could misleading texts about Byron Donalds be connected to last minute spend by Honesty America?

Honesty America
The Super PAC is closely tied to Casey Askar.

A Casey Askar-connected Super PAC paid nearly $30,000 to a Lee County marketing firm involved in text message campaigns. The next day, misleading text messages blasted through Florida’s 19th Congressional District wrongly saying Byron Donalds had quite the race.

The late independent expenditure was reported by Honesty America, a firm that has come after Donalds in attack ads before. The recent spending was to be used opposing Donalds’ candidacy.

A total of $29,750 was paid to Hook Marketing and Design. That’s a firm based in North Fort Myers and registered through the Division of Corporations to company President Christa Pusateri. husband Matt Pusateri, the vice president of the marketing company, is also a registered agent for Honesty America. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Askar and Donalds are among nine Republicans running to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican.

A poll commissioned by Florida Politics and released today shows Donalds leading the field with 23 but Askar close behind with 22%.

Notably, Honesty America has previously funded attacks on William Figlesthaler and Dane Eagle, who were in third and fourth place in the poll with 16%.

But while negative video and print ads have become a routine part of life in CD 19, the text messages coming out the final day of voting were far more unusual.

That’s in part because the texts contained an utter falsehood, namely that Donalds quit the race. Far from it, Donalds is out scrapping for votes at precincts in the district today.

Donalds immediately pegged blame for the texts on Askar and his campaign consultant Jeff Roe, who worked for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016 when a rumor was started at the Iowa caucuses wrongly stating Ben Carson had dropped out.

“They have been lying and they have been despicable this entire process but it ends today,” Donalds said.

For its part, the Askar campaign said it had nothing to do with the texts, even asserting Donalds may behind the smear himself.

Of course, the Honesty America disclosure hints the campaign may not have been involved directly. But that Super PAC is closely tied to Askar’s campaign team.

Honesty America was formed on April 1, with Pusateri listed as a registered agent. Pusateri previously worked for Rooney. Former Rooney staffers, including close Pusateri associate Nick Carr, are now working for Askar‘s campaign.

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]


2 comments

  • Martin Towne

    August 18, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    It only takes a quick glance to see that Honesty America’s donors are all Askar family, friends, and supporters…but it does make me wonder if some campaign money wasn’t channeled in there somehow…

  • Frances

    August 22, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Good job tracking this down Jacob. It is clear the PAC made a Hail Mary, but it was illegal. Pay attention to Pusateri’s partnership with Trey Radel and the negative hit pieces they have done together. Keep digging.

Comments are closed.


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