Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is currently campaigning to become the next governor of Florida, defended himself against accusations that he used Tallahassee city funds to meet with donors.
Gillum told CNN on Thursday that he “never, in any way, compromised my morals, values, or the law,” and that his only mistake was “not really assigning negative motives to anybody.”
Gillum faces GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis in Tuesday's midterm elections.
What is he accused of?
Around the time that Gillum was elected mayor of Tallahassee in 2014, he transferred money from his campaign to his official mayoral account. According to state law, this money could then be used only for the city.
On Feb. 12, 2016, Gillum flew from Tallahassee to Tampa and back to attend a meet and greet with “Tampa donors.” Newly released documents show the campaign reimbursing local developer Peter for $400, the approximate cost of the flight.
The funding for the Tampa event is also in question. In one of the most potentially incriminating lines, Leach asked Ruth's List Executive Director Marley Wilkes and lobbyist Adam Corey “Should the event cost be in Ruth's List name? I have reserved the room in my name, but perhaps under campaign regs it should be in Ruth's List's name. I'll reimburse Ruth's List if that is preferred.”
Ruth's List is an organization that tries to get Democratic, pro-choice, female candidates elected to state offices in Florida. According to its website, Ruth's List tries to do for Florida what Emily's List tries to do on a national scale.
These documents were released by Corey as part his cooperation with a subpoena by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Gillum would officially announce his candidacy for governor on March 1, 2017.
What did Gillum say?
Speaking to host John Berman on CNN's “New Day”, Gillum responded to a question about the new documents, saying that "office funds" were not taxpayer dollars and were his to use as he chose.
“I did meet with elected officials, but the suggestion that I went down fundraising, and met with a group of people to fundraise, is not true," Gillum said. "I met with a group of people who are trusted folks, they're political leaders in our state, many of them are friends, I was in Tampa and met with them and had conversations about the future of our state and our community.”
Gillum insisted that the meetings were “absolutely not” about furthering his own political career.
During the interview, Gillum also said that while he had not specifically called President Donald Trump racist “there are racists in his sympathizers who believe that he may be. Which is why they go to his aid. Which is why he has provided them cover. And I believe that his cover has led to much of the degradation in our political discourse.”
Text messages and documents released a week earlier as part of this subpoena also raise questions about a campaign event hosted by Gillum's PAC Forward Florida in 2016, as well as tickets to see the Broadway musical "Hamilton," which may have been paid for by an undercover FBI agent.