A Florida man who recently won election to Congress as a Republican just made a stunning written admission (see below) that he scored a secret six-figure haul of loans which he illegally used to finance a winning campaign for Congress and replace a retiring GOP incumbent.
Rep.-elect Ross Spano (R-FL) hasn’t even been sworn in to Congress yet, but last Friday night he told the Federal Elections Commission in writing that he “may have” committed a massive campaign finance felony by personally borrowing an undisclosed $180,000 in four loans from two private citizens.
The amount involved in Spano’s violation is larger than the felony election law violation to funnel hush money to Stormy Daniels that Michael Cohen pled guilty to committing at the direction of President Trump.
The Republican Congressman-elect’s attorneys tried to minimize the damaging revelations in their letter and buried another damaging admission of a misreported loan in a footnote. Talking Points Memo reports:
Spano’s defeated Democratic opponent, Kristen Carlson, has referred the matter to the FBI for investigation, and according to the Tampa Bay Times, Spano’s Republican primary opponent, a former state representative, “has also accused him of breaking the law.”
Spano also initially lowballed the amount of one loan. A footnote in his letter to the FEC blames the mistake — which listed a loan of $75,000 erroneously as $35,000 — on a “draftsman’s error.”
Spano has been a practicing attorney for twenty years, according to his law firm bio, which makes it pretty unlikely that he didn’t know taking out secret loans from friends is a serious federal election crime.
If a candidate commits more than $50,0000 in elections law violations, then federal law prescribes a maximum five-year imprisonment as penalty and subjects the politician to a punitive fine of up to ten times any knowing and willing violation.
While it is legal to make unlimited loans to one’s own campaign, personal loans to candidates for office are subject to a strict $2,700 maximum. The FEC’s Candidate Handbook notes:
“If any person, including a relative or friend of the candidate, gives or loans the candidate money ‘for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office,’ the funds are not considered personal funds of the candidate even if they are given to the candidate directly.”
Spano’s revelatory letter looks like a solid explanation of why the Republican took so long to file his campaign disclosures for the suburban Tampa-area seat in Florida’s 15th district, so late in fact, that the Tampa Bay Times reported that he got hit with an elections law complaint from an activist even before the election.
Now, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the prospective Republican freshman even make it to the swearing-in ceremony before he hears a knock on the door from the FBI investigators looking into crimes he may have committed to get into office in the first place?
Here’s the incoming House Republican’s letter to the FEC: