In his bid to become governor, Andrew Gillum loves to talk about his vision for running the state of Florida – a socialist agenda that spells doom for the now robust economy. What he dodges artfully and defensively is the stain of an FBI investigation into his corruption as the mayor of Tallahassee.
The facts have been trickling in since the FBI went public with investigative records, and once backed into a corner, Gillum resorts to whipping the race card from his slick suit jacket.
When all else failed, he doubled down and played the race card.
As government stings go, the Gillum trap seems mild compared to ABSCAM, the splashy gotcha moment in the late 1970s that revealed collusion between organized crime and government leaders. As the FBI describes, it was a riveting moment in American politics:
“The unfolding details were riveting: everything from mobsters hocking stolen paintings and fake securities in the Big Apple to politicians peddling influence in the nation’s capital. There were high-ranking government officials caught on tape stuffing wads of bribe money in their pockets and saying things like, ‘I’ve got larceny in my blood,’ and FBI agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Middle Eastern sheik, gathering evidence of these big league crimes.”
The recent sting, directed at Tallahassee’s Community Redevelopment Agency, was conducted on a much smaller scale, but it successfully brought into the light the not-so-leader-like qualities of an unethical politician. And the reputation of that man, Mayor Andrew Gillum, seems to have been bought with free tickets to Broadway blockbuster Hamilton and a sweet deal on a vacation villa in Costa Rica.
The tickets were a gift from undercover FBI agents. The villa came from former restaurateur, lobbyist, and close friend of Gillum’s, Adam Corey – the unwitting middleman between three undercover agents posing as businessmen with unlimited monies for real estate investments in Tallahassee and the mayor.
The Artful Dodger
In their first debate a few days ago, GOP candidate Ron DeSantis questioned Gillum on the FBI probe and the acceptance of gifts that constituted an ethics violation. Gillum’s response? Denial.
“First of all, I am a grown man. My wife and I take vacations and we pay for our own vacations … I don’t take free trips from anybody. I’m a hard-working person, I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do, but I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve gotten in my life.”
When all else failed, he doubled down and played the race card:
“… they’ve wanted the people of this state to believe somehow I haven’t deserved what I’ve gotten, I’m unethical, participated in illegal and illicit activity. I mean, you name it. The goal is obviously to use my candidacy as a way to reinforce, frankly, stereotypes about black men.”
Hold My Beer
Gillum’s story of how he paid for his ticket and his villa vacay is now being picked apart by the opposition, thrown in his face as proof that he’s unfit for the Governor’s mansion, and re-spun by the Gillum camp heading into the final two weeks of a testy and tumultuous campaign.
As is the case in most government stings, the waters are muddied so thoroughly it becomes difficult for the electorate to find enough truth to know where to cast a vote. But Floridians must soldier on in the few days remaining of the 2018 election cycle and decide whether Gillum is the answer, or just another corruptible “what’s in for me” politician.