Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Maria Elvira Salazar campaign over an ad accusing Shalala of profiting off the COVID-19 outbreak.
The two are facing off in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
The ad targets Shalala over a series of stock sales Shalala did not disclose. Shalala argues Salazar is making false claims as the Miami Herald reports Shalala has once again failed to report two sales in violation of the 2012 STOCK Act.
Salazar’s ad, however, goes further, and asserts Shalala “broke the law to enrich herself off coronavirus.” The Salazar campaign has not given evidence to support that claim, and none of Shalala’s STOCK Act violations imply that she is making money off the outbreak.
That misleading claim has led Shalala to send a cease-and-desist letter demanding the ad be taken down.
“The allegation stems from the fact that in April 2020, Representative Shalala admitted that she mistakenly failed to timely file periodic transaction reports for stock her broker sold in 2019,” Shalala’s letter reads.
“Yet, your advertisement has alleged that Rep. Shalala ‘broke the law to enrich herself off coronavirus.’ This false accusation is defamatory, and you must immediately cease from disseminating it further.”
The two have battled over the issue before. As Shalala was set to begin overseeing a $500 billion corporate relief package set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Congresswoman noted she had begun selling many of her stock interests shortly after she won the CD 27 seat in 2018.
Those 556 sales were not publicly disclosed, however, leading to Shalala paying a $1,200 fine to the House Ethics Committee.
Now, the Herald shows Shalala failed to disclose another two sales. Those sales took place on April 1, 2019 and March 31 of this year. Both involved Shalala selling stocks of Tegna, which spun off from Gannett. Shalala acquired the stocks originally when she served on Gannett’s board.
Carlos Condarco, a spokesperson for Shalala’s campaign, said “neither the congresswoman nor her advisers receive notification when these shares are sold. They don’t manage the assets in the plan or receive notices of sale,” according to the Herald. The Congresswoman was unaware the stocks were sold until she prepared her annual financial disclosure form earlier this year.
“This came to light because her advisers she relies on weren’t monitoring this closely,” Condarco added.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has already gone after Shalala after her first batch of violations. Salazar has argued Shalala’s failure to disclose the prior sales should disqualify her from overseeing the corporate relief fund. Shalala has argued that while she didn’t comply with disclosure laws, the sales lessen any conflicts of interest by reducing her stock ownership.
CD 27 spans parts of Miami-Dade County including Coral Gables, South Miami and Miami Beach. Shalala defeated Salazar after facing off in a rematch after Shalala won the open seat by 6 percentage points in 2018.