Andrew Gillum, DeSantis’s 2018 Rival, Charged with Conspiracy and Fraud
By: Tristan Yuen
On Wednesday, Andrew Gillum, the Democrat who lost the 2018 Florida governor’s elections to Ron DeSantis, turned himself in to federal authorities in Tallahassee after he and an associate, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a Democrat running for a State House seat in Tallahassee, were charged with 19 counts of fraud over how they raised and used funds while Mr. Gillum was the mayor of Tallahassee and a candidate for governor. In addition to this, Mr. Gillum was also charged with making false statements to the F.B.I.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Gillum pleaded not guilty in a court appearance. After leaving, he gave no comment to the reporters outside.
Mr. Gillum was actually very close to becoming Florida’s first black governor. He came within 32,000 votes of the governorship in 2018. However, he lost his political direction and began facing personal struggles. In 2020, he was discovered by the police in a Miami hotel room with another man who was suffering from a possible drug overdose.
Soon after this Mr. Gillum entered rehab for alcoholism and later came out as bisexual in an interview with his wife present. The charges against Mr. Gillum stem from a federal investigation into Tallahassee City Hall during 2015. During this investigation, F.B.I. agents posed as developers and socialized with Mr. Gillum. The results of this investigation, involving a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and a viewing of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” became an issue for Mr. Gillum’s 2018 campaign.
In 2019, Mr. Gillum failed to disclose what the undercover agents gifted him and paid an ethics fine of $5000.
On June 7, along with the 21-count indictment against Mr. Gillum a confidante of Mr. Gillum, Ms. Lettman-Hicks, was charged for using her communications company, P&P Communications, to cover fraudulent payments to Mr. Gillum as part of her payroll. She also pleaded not guilty during the court hearing.
However, Mr. Gillum stated that he had run his campaigns “with integrity.” He stated that there had been a “target on [his] back ever since [he] was the mayor of Tallahassee” and that “they found nothing then” and therefore he had full confidence that his legal team would prove him innocent.
Charges against Mr. Gillum state that beginning in 2016, Mr. Gillum and the two undercover agents posed as developers had agreed to exchange campaign contributions for “unencumbered government contracts.” To cover this agreement up, he told the developers that they should separate the campaign contributions and the projects the two developers were working on. Mr. Gillum “looked favorably on” the developers’ proposed development projects.
Then, in 2017, Mr. Gillum voluntarily spoke to F.B.I. agents and falsely reported that the developers never offered him anything and that after they had tried to link their contributions to support their Tallahassee projects, he had stopped communicating with them. During this time Mr. Gillum also became a candidate for governor and resigned from his position with People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group whose office in Tallahassee was leased from none other than Ms. Lettman-Hicks. Because of his resignation, Mr. Gillum lost his annual salary of $122,500 and Ms. Lettman-Hicks lost $3000 of monthly rent.
As mayor Mr. Gillum made around $70,500.
Because of this lost salary, Mr. Gillum became an employee of Mr. Lettman-Hicks’ communication company. He was given a monthly salary of around $10,000. According to charges, this employment was only used to provide him the funds he had lost after he resigned from People for the American Way.
In order to manage Mr. Gillum’s new salary, the duo solicited $50,000 in grant funding from two organizations. This money was originally supposed to be used for the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, Mr. Gillum’s attempt to fight state efforts to pre-empt local governments’ power.
Instead, this money went to P&P Communications to pay Mr. Gillum.
Then, an unnamed campaign donor gave $250,000 to support Mr. Gillum’s campaign. Instead, $150,000 was diverted to Mr. Gillum’s political action committee and to P&P Communications.
In addition to the $200,000 Mr. Gillum reportedly stole, $130,000 from Mr. Gillum’s campaign, originally supposed to go to “get out the vote” efforts, was reduced by $60,000. This money went to P&P Communications and was used to help pay Mr. Gillum’s $20,000 “bonus” payment from Nov. 20 to 29 in 2018.
The $60,000 was then listed in Mr. Gillum’s campaign finance report as reimbursement for “Get Out the Vote Canvassing.”
In total, Mr. Gillum and Ms. Lettman-Hicks defrauded from various donors over $260,000 in campaign funds