Newly-elected GOP congressman admits to breaking federal law

Incoming Republican representative Ross Spano publicly acknowledges that he may have violated campaign finance law

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 4, 2018 1:05PM (EST)

Criminal justice subcommittee chair Ross Spano, R-Dover, right, listens to Eric Friday of Florida Carry Inc. comment on a concealed weapons bill, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) (AP)
Criminal justice subcommittee chair Ross Spano, R-Dover, right, listens to Eric Friday of Florida Carry Inc. comment on a concealed weapons bill, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) (AP)

Ross Spano, a Republican who was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the 15th congressional district last month, is being accused of violating campaign finance laws during that campaign.

On Saturday Congressman-elect Spano publicly released a Federal Elections Commission filing which revealed that he had borrowed $180,000 from people he described as personal friends between June and October and loaned his campaign $167,000 during roughly the same period of time, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Although Spano described those loans as coming from his "personal funds," federal campaign finance law prohibits describing money given to a campaign through personal loans as coming from the candidate's own bank account. Those types of loans are supposed to be classified as campaign contributions — and, as such, limited to $2,700 each for both the primary and general elections.

The Times elaborated on how Spano is defending himself in the letter published on Saturday:

At the time of the loans, Spano "believed he was acting in full compliance with the law" as did the two lenders, "based on the consultations they had at the time," stated a letter to the Commission that was released Saturday afternoon.

But the letter, written by attorney Elliott Berke of Washington, said Spano and the lenders "now recognize that some of the proceeds from the personal loans … may have been in violation of the Federal Campaign Finance Act."

Berke said in the letter that he was submitting it on behalf of Spano and the two people who gave Spano the loans, retiree Karen Hunt of Plant City and businessman Cary Carreno of Valrico.

Kirsten Carlson, Spano's Democratic opponent in the congressional election, is calling for a federal investigation.

"I don't know if that amount of money would have affected the outcome of my race, but I really do believe it affected the primary race," Carlson told the Times. "The elections laws are in place for a reason and they're intended to give the public fair and honest elections."

Spano's primary opponent, Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, has also accused Spano of violating campaign finance law but has not said whether he would pursue legal options to rectify the situation.

Meanwhile Spano's former campaign treasurer, Jamie C. Jodoin, insisted that "I was given checks and the only information I received was they were drawn from his personal account." Jodoin was replaced as Spano's campaign treasurer by Robert Phillips III in his filing with the commission last week.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Florida Congressional Elections Ross Spano