When Historic City News editor Michael Gold was informed that readers began receiving direct mail flyers attacking St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver, we decided to look a little deeper, and you may be surprised what we discovered.
For the first time that we are able to learn, a political action committee (referred to as a “PAC”) has distributed electioneering communications in an attempt to influence the outcome of a municipal election in the City of St Augustine.
The reason this is significant is that it confirms big money contributors have an interest in unseating Mayor Shaver in favor of her opponent Kris Phillips — and doing it in a way that conceals their identities.
When Mayor Shaver purchases a campaign advertisement, she has to pay for it from funds that have either been donated or loaned to her campaign. The information indicating who the advertisement was purchased from and its cost is available publicly on the local Supervisor of Elections website. The mayor must approve the content and any claims made in the advertisement before it is mailed to the voters and she is responsible for any material misstatement of fact.
In the case of these recent flyers, and there appear to be two or three already, they are mailed from the Political Action Committee — “Sun Coast Patriots” using an address in Ft. Myers. Aside from the name of the principal agent of the “PAC” voters know little about the source or authenticity of claims made in the flyer.
The Division of Elections maintains records on hundreds of committees. In addition to “political action committees” like Sun Coast Patriots, the Division maintains current and historical registrations for the following committees:
- Committee of Continuous Existence (CCE)
- Party Executive Committee (PTY)
- Affiliated Party Committee (PAP)
- Electioneering Communication Organizations (ECO)
- Electioneering Communication Individual (ECI)
- Independent Expenditure Organization (IXO)
Information should be available for each committee that would include the committee address, chairman, treasurer, deputy treasurer, registered agent and all campaign finance activity.
But in the case of “Sun Coast Patriots”, the following identity record is linked:
Chairperson: William S. Jones
Treasurer: William S. Jones
Registered Agent: William S. Jones
Type: Political Committee
Address: 15880 Summerlin Road #300-311
Fort Myers, FL 33908
A Tallahassee attorney, Richard Coates, is located at the primary address used by almost all of the associated committees in the syndicate. Payments are made to and from Coates involving the various committee monikers. According to IRS records obtained, the committees are registered to Stafford Jones.
Even though I don’t know Mr. Jones personally, a lot of people apparently do — a lot of people with big money and a reason to want to remain anonymous.
In fact, on investigation of available records, we found that Mr. Jones is registered with the Division of Elections on 33 active committees in Florida, 20 more closed and 4 more whose registration was revoked.
Because of the lack of transparency and inability to track specific contributors to specific contributions as you can do on the Supervisor of Elections website, these donations are referred to as “Dark Money”.
In addition to the public campaign to elect Kris Phillips that reports raising $23,560.00, there will be no accounting of how much money the political action committee(s) actually spend on Phillips. Four-color printing and mailing costs to all 13,000 St Augustine voters is not cheap. Depending on how many of these attack flyers are actually produced, they could spend another $20,000.00, or more. They don’t check in with her first and they may spend without limit.
We do notice that one of the syndicate entities, Sunshine State Conservatives from the Tallahassee address, did make a PAC donation directly to Phillips in the amount of $500. Another unrelated PAC, Realtors Political Advocacy Committee from Orlando, donated $1,000.00.
To think that $40-50 thousand dollars may be spent on the Phillips campaign is not unreasonable at all. Compare that to the $21,948.25 annual salary paid to the mayor, and the fact that the mayor must run for re-election every two years, not four.
Someone known only to Mr. Jones, perhaps, must really want an inexperienced, unqualified, puppet in the mayor’s seat. Wonder why that is? You can review some of the contributors to another of the syndicate members, First Coast Conservatives, 115 East Park Avenue, Suite 1, Tallahassee, Fl 32301 http://firstcoastconservatives.com/FCC-report.pdf