Campaign finance drama continues in CD 15 with transparency questions about Scott Franklin donors

Scott Franklin_Alan Cohn
Top donors from controversial backgrounds didn't disclose employment information.

In yet another campaign finance mishap for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, Republican Scott Franklin’s campaign failed to disclose employment information on several major donors in recent finance reports.

Franklin’s campaign has come under fire for its most recent campaign finance report, which failed to list employers and occupations for more than 50 of 219 individual donors. In response, a complaint has been filed against Franklin and his campaign with the Federal Elections Committee.

Franklin said the campaign is working to get the information from donors.

Candidates are required by federal law to disclose their donors’ employers and occupations; however, in an interview with Florida Politics, Franklin said although donors failed to disclose employment, the campaign still had to report the receipts, which is why there is a lack of disclosure information.

Franklin said the campaign is reaching back out to the donors who failed to disclose employment information in order to update records. In the meantime, occupation fields are listed as “information requested.”

“As soon as we have it we’ll certainly have all those disclosures, but a lot of people don’t realize when they make a campaign contribution that they’re required to provide their occupation,” Franklin said.

CEO of Oakley Transport Thomas Oakley also donated $1,000 to Franklin’s campaign on Sept. 30, but the report failed to mention his employment. The trucking company is currently working through wage theft litigation with California employees who allege it failed to pay minimum wage and denied meal breaks to truckers.

Other donors who’s employment is not disclosed include Todd Wall, president of Florida Handling Systems, which agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement with the children of a father who was killed when a crane that its own inspectors had determined was safe collapsed. Wall donated $1,200 to the campaign.

“Franklin’s flagrant violations pose real questions about who Franklin is actually running to represent in Congress – Floridians or his shady lobbyist, fertilizer, and sugar industry donors,” said Kevin Lata, Franklin opponent Alan Cohn‘s campaign manager. “Alan has spent his career holding the powerful accountable and taking on the corrupt, and he’s running for Congress to put an end to this pattern of politicians like Franklin flouting the rules and breaking their constituents’ trust for political gain.”

But that complaint immediately follows Cohn’s own campaign misstep. A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Cohn alleges the candidate illegally accepted more than $235,000 from an unauthorized committee, the House Victory Project 2020. 

According to the complaint, Cohn accepted the transfer of funds from the committee, which supports Democratic congressional candidates, on Sept. 30. However, the House Victory Project 2020 was not an authorized campaign committee for Cohn for Congress until Oct. 4, possibly violating contribution limits by more than $200,000. 

Franklin fired back at Cohn’s campaign over that complaint.

“He needs to get it right because these details matter,” Franklin said. “That’s why I got in the race. The first time I think the people of our district are tired of people who just can’t seem to follow the rules.”

Voters in CD 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties, have been here before.

Former CD 15 Rep. Ross Spano is still under federal investigation over his own illegal campaign contributions from 2018 when he first won election. Spano took nearly $200,000 in loans from two personal friends and then used those loans to fund his campaign. Under FEC rules, only a candidate can loan a campaign money. That means the personal loans from friends constituted an illegal contribution, a fact Spano himself later acknowledged and blamed on bad financial advice from a consultant.

The complaint against Cohn was notably filed by Republican Neil Combee. Combee ran unsuccessfully against Spano in the 2018 primary, an election he would later learn he lost after his opponent padded his war chest with out-of-bounds contributions.

CD 15 voters have already been plagued for two years by a Representative in Congress who was able to get little done as he battled a Department of Justice investigation. Now they’re facing an election where they could be left with a new Representative who could face the very same challenges.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]



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