Did Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick buy her seat with taxpayer money earmarked for vaccines?
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick
A company she leads made $8M from state vaccine contracts as she used $6M on her campaign.

I have been closely watching politics in Florida for more years than I would care to admit, and the level of corruption in both political parties seems to have gotten worse and worse over the years. Research compiled by my team here at Florida Politics leads to no other reasonable conclusion than that the recently uncovered level of corruption by Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is unprecedented.

Cherfilus-McCormick, through her company Trinity Health Care Services, was awarded more than $22 million in contracts by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration starting the week that longtime Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings died.

Exactly one week after Hastings’ death, Cherfilus-McCormick started receiving money from contracts awarded through DeSantis’ Office via the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Fund for vaccine work in nursing homes. The total amount Trinity received from April 2021 through August 2021 exceeded $8 million.

At the same time, financial disclosures show Cherfilus-McCormick and her brother made more than $6.2 million for “consulting fees and profit-sharing.” That money, which was received for work done by Trinity Health Care Services, came through two entities — The EC Firm, registered by Edwin Cherfilus, and SCM Consulting Group — that were incorporated just a month before Cherfilus-McCormick started receiving money from the office of DeSantis. (Correction: a prior version of this referred to Edwin Cherfilus as the Congresswoman’s husband)

The more than $6 million Cherfilus-McCormick paid herself and her husband is more than their net worth, according to the disclosures, which list The EC Firm’s worth at up to $250,000 and SCM Consulting at $500,000.

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Meanwhile, Cherfilus-McCormick ran for Congress largely self-funding her campaign. Over the course of the costly Special Election to replace Hastings, Cherfilus-McCormick loaned her campaign almost $6.6 million, Federal Election Commission records show. Since then, the campaign has repaid more than $2 million, but there is still a $4.6 million candidate loan outstanding as she seeks a second term.

It sure looks like the money Cherfilus-McCormick used to buy her seat in Congress came from taxpayer dollars provided by DeSantis’ Office under the guise of helping to get communities vaccinated. The $6.5 million used to fund the congressional campaign amounts to more than 75% of the money Cherfilus-McCormick was given to help poor and disadvantaged people get vaccinated. No other sources of funds have been disclosed as being at Cherfilus-McCormick’s disposal to use for those loans.

The first loan of the millions loaded into her campaign came the month after she started receiving money through the Governor’s Office, supposedly for vaccination work.

After this story was published, Alecia Collins, spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management and made clear the Executive Office of the Governor doesn’t play a role in selecting vendors.

“During the COVID-19 activation, the state’s biggest priority was securing as many resources as possible to assist communities responding to COVID-19. Under the COVID-19 State of Emergency, the Division was authorized to waive procurement rules and contracted with vendors that could provide services as quickly and as cost-efficient as possible. To identify these vendors, the Division worked with the Florida Department of Health and issued Request for Quotes throughout the response, including RFQs for COVID-19 testing and vaccination services,” Collins said.

“Vendors were selected based on if they could provide equipment and services that supported Florida’s response to COVID-19. As such, the Division does not track the political affiliations of any vendor that does business with the Division, nor do we hand-pick vendors based on their political affiliation.”

Cherfilus-McCormick loaned her campaign some money in her two previous races, against Hastings in 2018 and 2020. But the total amount of those loans was less than 1% of what she loaned her campaign since the beginning of last year.

The jaw-dropping level of corruption by Cherfilus-McCormick doesn’t end there though. Cherfilus-McCormick broke the law by concealing her finances and apparent financial improprieties to the voters that elected her. The fact that Cherfilus-McCormick is a lawyer makes this especially egregious.

There’s no way to compare Cherfilus-McCormick’s income last year to prior years when she was running. Even though every candidate for Congress is required to file a financial disclosure report, Cherfilus-McCormick didn’t file them for any of her past elections. The first one she filed was submitted a month after the Democratic Primary in November 2021, which she ultimately won by just five votes over former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. She faces Holness again this year.

To this day she still hasn’t filed the required financial disclosures for her unsuccessful 2018 campaign, even after filing for two extensions. Since being sworn into Congress she also has yet to file a new financial disclosure, and in May, she requested a 90-day extension to submit such a report. That means her report will be due Aug. 13, 10 days before the Democratic Primary for the 2022 election cycle.

On top of all that, the money Cherfilus-McCormick received from DeSantis’ Office isn’t the only money she collected from a Republican administration. The Donald Trump administration gave Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick $1.2 million to Trinity in Paycheck Protection loans back in 2020. She received a second loan in April 2021 despite the millions Trinity started receiving that month from DeSantis’ Office.

When you consider the self-dealing and concealing of their finances from public scrutiny, Cherfilus-McCormick and Trump are like two peas in a pod of corruption when it comes to such matters. Every last dollar she took from the Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis administrations should have gone to keeping folks alive by getting them vaccinated or maintaining payroll for struggling businesses. Instead they took millions for themselves.

Simply put, had Cherfilus-McCormick played it straight she wouldn’t be in Congress right now as at least six voters, and likely thousands more, certainly wouldn’t have taken kindly to where and how she got the funds she used in her campaign. The candidate she beat by five votes is running again, so if Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick survives the multitude of investigations that could be coming her way, the voters will get another chance to weigh in this August.

___

Update: Cherfilus-McCormick provided the following response to reporting:

“We were chosen to participate in the Biden-Harris Administration federally-established community vaccination centers, with the ability to administer a total of 61,000 shots per day at full capacity.

The federal payments that came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had the state managing the funds and making the payments.

For these sites, the federal government is directly working with state and local partners from start to finish, to help select the location for, staff, and operate these sites.

The Biden-Harris Administration is placing equity at the core of the federal government’s strategy to defeat the pandemic. FEMA has partnered with CDC and state and local partners to locate vaccination centers in places that aim to reach hard-hit, high-risk communities, deploying CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and similar state and local measures. Ensuring access is a priority in the design of the Federal Pilot community vaccination centers, with some featuring weekend and extended daytime hours, reserved slots for registration through faith-based and community-based organizations, and deployment alongside mobile vaccination units to help vaccinate surrounding communities.

The federal payments that came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had the state managing the funds and making the payments. Here is a link with further details on the issue: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/26/fact-sheet-441-federally-supported-community-vaccination-centers-in-first-month-of-biden-harris-administration/”

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


4 comments

  • Andrew K.

    June 16, 2022 at 12:38 pm

    Wow. Thank you for doing this investigative work. We need more journalism like this if we the public are to make informed decisions when it comes to our elected officials.

  • Mi

    June 16, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    LOL… 2 times before the big money machines behind Holness succeeded and derailed the will of District 20 voters. This last time #WeAreDistrict20 WERE HEARD & VERIFIED. YOUR Congresswoman (Oh wait… you live St Pete?) Was and is showing up to her constituents with her own resources and those available to anyone who applied LEGALLY! Oh! wait… Who’s daughter got sentenced to nearly two years in prison on January 2022 for fraud!

    You’ve lost all my respect for any and all of your writings… Sad, to see a Democrat try to win by discrediting proven public servants that have already WON!

  • GL Blidack

    June 18, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    This is clearly a political hit piece. Who paid you to attack the sitting about how the congress-woman and her family run business? If they delivered the services for which they were paid by government contracts that were available to the public before she won her office seat and utilized profits from that work to fund her campaign, how is that corruption? Nothing she did by your own account was even unethical. What a waste of time.

  • Dee

    June 21, 2022 at 10:34 pm

    This is a shame. The voters will get a chance to speak at the ballot box in August. I hope all are more informed on these candidates when casting ballots.

Comments are closed.


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