Senator says probe into ‘ghost’ candidates has ‘nothing to do’ with campaign – Orlando Sentinel

The Republican who won a competitive race for the Florida Senate in 2020 said this week he was unaware of his former employee’s alleged role in aiding a ‘ghost’ candidate who was apparently at the heart of a vote siphoning scheme. intended to boost his candidacy.

State Senator Jason Brodeur spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the scandal for the first time on Wednesday, saying he was unaware that Ben Paris would have been involved in the behind-the-scenes effort to undermine Democrat Patricia Sigman while working under Brodeur’s supervision in the Seminole County chamber.

Paris, the current Seminole County GOP chairman, is accused of secretly contribute to independent candidate Jestine Iannotti on behalf of her cousin, a violation of the Election Finances Act.

Paris was working as vice president of operations for the Seminole Chamber, of which Brodeur is the president and CEO, until last Tuesday when Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Phil Archer announced that Paris had been charged of a crime.

But Brodeur said he was unaware of Paris’s involvement in Iannotti’s candidacy, which was promoted by GOP operatives in a scheme that almost certainly helped him get his way. to win the seat for Senate District 9, which includes all of Seminole County and part of Volusia. .

“None of this has anything to do with my campaign,” he said.

Brodeur spoke to the Sentinel at a fundraiser for his re-election campaign on Wednesday night at Heathrow Country Club. A Sentinel reporter approached Brodeur as he arrived at the event after he failed to respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.

Besides Paris, charges were pronounced last week against Iannotti and political consultant Eric Foglesong. Both are accused of falsifying Iannotti’s campaign finance documents, listing the names of people who did not donate in an apparent attempt to make his candidacy more legitimate.

Iannotti received over 5,000 votes.

The charges were prompted by a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation that began last year. Paris, a longtime friend of Iannotti, made the first contact with her noted in an FDLE investigative report, call him for about five minutes just after 9 o’clock. May 29.

A photo posted to Facebook May 14 by the Seminole County GOP shows U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (center left) and State Senator Jason Brodeur cutting a ribbon while Seminole County GOP Chairman Ben Paris ( right, holding a microphone) looks on.

That evening, Foglesong and Iannotti spoke on the phone for about half an hour, after which he texted her the address of his office, apparently so she could pick up an envelope containing the roughly $1,200. cash she needed to pay her application fees. and enter the race.

Iannotti was a political newcomer when she ran for the competitive state Senate race last year. Although she did not campaign, GOP operatives promoted her in ads that appeared designed to appeal to progressive voters.

The Central Florida race was one of three competitive state Senate races in 2020 where independent candidates with no political experience ran but did not campaign. During a race in the Miami area, former state senator Frank Artiles was accused of paying his friend Alex Rodriguez nearly $45,000 to run.

Rodriguez, who garnered more than 6,000 votes in an election the Republican nominee won by 32, agreed to a plea deal last year and agreed to testify in the state’s case against Artiles, who has pleaded not guilty and is due to be tried in September.

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Artiles was heard bragging about his role in the South Florida scheme on Brodeur’s election night.

A group of political consultants who orchestrated the ad campaign that promoted Iannotti and the other independent candidates specifically discussed the Central Florida contest, according to text messages obtained by the Sentinel last year.

Ryan Tyson, former vice president and policy advisor for Associated Industries of Florida, noted in the September 2020 texts that polls showed Brodeur leading the way but “the mood is bad.”

“I’m so nervous for Jason,” he wrote.

Tyson is the executive director of “Let’s Preserve the American Dream,” a black money nonprofit that donated $600,000 to another nonprofit called “Grow United.” That money was used to pay for the publicity blitz defending Iannotti and the other independent candidates with shippers proclaiming their concern for issues such as climate change and health care.

Brodeur is seeking re-election in Senate District 10, which, like his current district, includes Seminole County, but also part of Orange. Democrat Joy Goff-Marcil, a former Maitland City Council member and current Florida House member, filed a lawsuit challenging him.

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