Incoming GOP lawmaker says he may have violated campaign finance law

Incoming GOP lawmaker says he may have violated campaign finance law
© Greg Nash

Rep.-elect Ross Spano (R-Fla.) is acknowledging that he may have violated campaign finance law in his bid to represent Florida's 15th Congressional District. 

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Spano acknowledged potentially violating the law after releasing a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filing on Saturday. In the filing, Spano said that he borrowed $180,000 from two friends from June to October of this year. 

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He lended $167,000 in roughly the same time period to his campaign, the Times reported. 

Spano said the loans came from his "personal funds" upon making the payments. 

But, as the newspaper noted, a loan transferred to a candidate with the goal of giving money to a campaign must be denoted as a campaign contribution.

Those loans must also adhere to restrictions on campaign contributions, such as $2,700 each for the primary and general elections. 

A letter to the FEC said that Spano "believed he was acting in full compliance with the law." The Times noted that the two lenders also believed they were making contributions lawfully. 

But Spano's attorney, Elliott Berke of Washington, said in the letter that the incoming lawmaker and the two loaners "now recognize that some of the proceeds from the personal loans … may have been in violation of the Federal Campaign Finance Act."

Berke said he wrote the letter on behalf of Spano and the lenders, retiree Karen Hunt of Plant City and businessman Cary Carreno of Valrico.

The Times reported that Democratic House candidate Kristen Carlson has already asked for a federal probe into the matter. Spano defeated Carlson in the November midterm election after Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced he would not seek reelection. 

"I don't know if that amount of money would have affected the outcome of my race," she said, according to The Times. "But I really do believe it affected the primary race."

"The elections laws are in place for a reason and they're intended to give the public fair and honest elections."

Spano has reportedly dismissed his previous campaign accountant in response to the issue.