Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis called for investigations Wednesday into former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joining the effort to help Florida felons pay outstanding legal fees so they can register to vote in November.
Moody, saying her office was acting at the request of DeSantis, asked the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Bloomberg raising at least $16 million for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, contending it could be a violation of state laws against offering incentives to people or groups in exchange for voting in a particular manner.
“After preliminarily reviewing this limited public information and law, it appears further investigation is warranted,” Moody wrote to Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the Tampa office of the FBI, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Richard Swearingen. “Accordingly, I request that your agencies further investigate this matter and take appropriate steps as merited.”
Patronis, a Republican like DeSantis and Moody, asked the Florida Elections Commission to determine if Bloomberg’s contribution to the non-profit is trying to illegally influence the outcome of Florida’s November election.
“Reports that the failed presidential candidate is spending tens of millions of dollars on restitution for certain registered voters doesn’t smell right to me,” Patronis wrote, referring to the billionaire businessman’s bid for the Democratic nomination this year.
Before the money for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition was announced, Bloomberg reportedly was putting $100 million into Florida to help Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential effort.
The coalition has collected more than $20 million for a “Fines and Fees” fund established in response to a state law and a recent court ruling requiring felons to pay “legal financial obligations” — fees, fines, costs and restitution — to be eligible to vote.
Coalition Executive Director Desmond Meade denied Wednesday that the money raised by Bloomberg is being used to target Black and Hispanic voters to shore up support for Biden, as reported by the Washington Post.
“We don’t care what people’s political party is. What we care about is if they was impacted by a felony conviction and they want to take part in our democracy,” Meade told reporters.
Earlier Wednesday, DeSantis and Patronis blocked a request by Meade, a former drug dealer, for a pardon from the state Board of Executive Clemency.
A law school graduate who made it onto Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people last year, Meade was at the forefront of passing a 2018 constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 4, to restore voting rights to convicted felons.
Coalition Deputy Director Neil Volz, whose request for restoration of civil rights was approved Wednesday by the Board of Executive Clemency, said the group is focused on providing resources so “returning citizens” can register to vote.
“This is a movement about people, people who see each other along the lines of humanity. We know that there’s people who are engaging and donating for other reasons, but our primary north-star focus is returning citizens, all returning citizens across the state of Florida,” Volz said.
Felons and their advocates are racing against an Oct. 5 deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
A 2019 law aimed at implementing Amendment 4 restored voting rights to felons “upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole and probation.”
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and no American should be denied that right,” Bloomberg said in a statement released by the coalition.
Volz said Tuesday his organization already has spent $5 million to clear up the court-ordered debts of about 5,000 convicted felons.
The effort intensified following a Sept. 11 ruling by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a decision by a district judge, who said in May that the state cannot deny the right to vote to felons who are “genuinely unable to pay” court-ordered financial obligations. Voting-rights groups that challenged the law alleged that linking voting rights and finances amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”
The effort to wipe out felons’ debts has drawn financial support from such celebrities as musician John Legend and NBA superstars LeBron James and Michael Jordan, as well as Florida professional sports teams.
–Dara Kam, Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
What a dirtbag. All of a sudden dilettante Bloomberg has developed an interest in Florida felons? Aren’t there enough felons in NYC to occupy his time and accept his money? I am an independent voter and do not believe our state can possibly have a fair election with this sort of thing going on.
It is so ironic to see a fellow independent voter thinking we can’t have a fair election due to an American with a conscience helping disenfranchised citizens restore their fundamental right to vote. While elected officials use their power to attempt to influence the results by blocking a group they “perceive” to be likely to vote one way and by refusing to act on the vote of our citizens to restore those rights. True evil at work in Tallahassee. Praying all GOP evil gets voted out ASAP, the party is dead and, now belongs to the racists and the facists. As an ex-GOP member it is heartbreaking and scary.
The Voice Of Reason says
Voter suppression, disenfranchisement. rump desantis, that’s what they do. It’s an essential part of their legacy. Along with hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. The two of them are utter garbage, along with mcconnell and graham too.
Justin Case says
Wow. Your comments are sooo inclusive and unifying. I voted mostly Republican, and in favor of restoring felon’s voting rights. The amendment was written that rights could be restored upon completion of sentence. This means paying fines, and restitution. It is not a poll tax, that is just insulting to say to me. If you don’t have money, get a job. Voting on Bloomberg’s behalf in exchange for money is not the same as working. You call yourself “the voice of reason”? People are not garbage, and name calling is what children resort to.
Billy C. says
So, wait a second. You are in favor of them voting if restitution is paid but you want to decide where the money can and can’t come from? Get a job? So, pandemic, economic collapse, and huge gaps in their employment history be damned, no voting unless you get a job and give the money to the state? Are you that daft or did you just not think this out? People are not garbage and restoring their right to vote should never have include those fees, but since they did the State should gladly accept the money and let them VOTE.
Justin Case says
It is NOT suppression. Read amendment 4. “.. upon completion.” This includes any fees, fines, and probationary time. What part of completed is so hard to understand?
Billy C. says
What part of the word “suppression don’t you understand? We all know what the amendment says and we also know that the Governor is trying hard to throw last minute stumbling blocks in the path of these people to keep them from voting. Now, with philanthropic donations coming forward to pay these fines etc. he wants to investigate the donators. Bloomberg’s money is as good as anyone else’s and the state could use the funds.
CB from PC says
Not if he is only paying the fines of Blacks and Hispanics. The Washington Post (Owned by Bezos) has stated Bloomberg is paying these groups fines because he knows most will vote Biden. There you have it. Illegal by Florida Statute and Racist towards White Felons as well.
The Voice Of Reason says
Justin, I see you as a partisan. As originally written, amendment 4 was not written in a way that fines and fees were required to be paid in order to reestablish voting rights of convicted felons. This condition was only added later by desantis and the Fl Senate in mid 2019 SB 7066. This was intended to subvert the will of the people, including you. You took the incorrect liberty to assume terms of voting restoration included fines and fees. The need for SB 7066 proves you wrong. Bloomberg should be applauded for clearing up criminal debt owed to Florida with no regard to political party affiliation and moving Florida out of the dark ages of voter suppression.
Justin Case says
I did not take any liberties. When I was asked to vote on felons having their rights restored upon completion of their sentence, I took the word completion at face value. If you are sentenced to fines and jail time or even just probation, the sentence is not complete until ALL aspects of the sentence are complete. If a sentence includes fines, but no jail time do you think their sentence is complete, or do they need to pay the fines or restitution? If the felons in question indicated they would vote for Trump what would Bloomberg do?
Desantis and gaetz (a cancer upon Florida) whine about philanthrophy being given to the poor, yet they say NOTHING about Trump trying to buy votes by finally, FINALLY giving some FEMA money to Puerto Rico (after putting them down for 2 years and refusing to help them rebuild) right before the election? Republicans like them are such hypocrites!
Trump’s lapdog continues the GOP long-term strategy of voter suppression – the only way this aging, white minority party can attempt to hold power.
Trailer Bob says
“white minority party”?
Can you elaborate on that?
Are you referring to the concept that whites are somewho a problem?
Sure, they don’t want these folks to vote because they aren’t voting for Trump!! So, anyway they can get away with more nonsense, they are going to attempt to do. Just more Republican corruption…
Former Resident says
There is an ASSUMPTION they aren’t voting for trump. I’m sure that there’s plenty of white good ol’ boys with felonies who would love the opportunity to vote. The republicans could be shooting themselves in the foot!
Greg Jolley says
As always, thank you. Great and important article!
It was on our ballot to allow felons to vote and that passed, now all of a sudden DeSantis came up with the brain storm that they have to pay all fines. That was not a stipulation on that ballot amendment we voted for.
Just because Trump and DeSantis feel all felons are black or spanish minorities and won’t vote for Trump now they are pulling this stunt before a democracy election.
This election isn’t about Democrats and Republicans as you heard Donald Trump’s own words yesterday he is going to claim our ballots as frauds and shouldn’t be counted.
He wants to do this so he can create his dicatorship that he erns to have and we will all lose our rights and democracy under his new scam and this is a scam on our democracy. And of course his puppet DeSantis will go along with this scam to since he does whatever Donald Trump tells him to do.
DeSantis wants to investigate Michael Bloomberg, well the American people should be demanding an investigation into DeSantis and Trumps scam to cheat at our right to vote and our democracy.
Corruption at its best is taking place right before our own eyes.
DeSantis do you want your children growing up in a dictatorship ruling that is what is happening and your taking part in allowing that to happen.
It will no longer be the USA it will be the new country under Trump the dicator.
Old Guy says
You hit the nail squarely on the head.
Justin Case says
Did you read your ballot? Complete your sentence, and you can get your voting rights restored. Paying fines most certainly IS part of the sentence. Please do some research before unleashing your anti Trump rants. Felons got themselves into their situation. Trump & Desantis had nothing to with predicament. If the amendment had been worded ” upon release from prison, regardless of fines and restitution” I would have voted no. Even my kids know, you don’t get un-grounded until the punishment is COMPLETE.
The wording was CHANGED by republicans in Florida’s legislature AFTER the voters approved felons who have served their time were released. Usually once they are let out of jail their fines are ‘let go’ too. Not for republicans.
Rick G says
Unlike the Ukrainian situation Bloomberg’s money comes with no quid pro quo.
And you really believe that ?
Bloomberg passes homeless people everyday as he walks out of his multimillion dollar mansion in NYC to get on his private jet and doesn’t give them a second thought but for some reason he has such compassion and empathy for convicted felons in Florida right to vote that he’s dipping into his pocket to pay their court mandated sentence conditions and restitution without the implications of a QUID PRO QUO. YEAGH RIGHT.
Rick G says
It is amazing when the shoe is on the other foot how Rs scream foul. They buy their own votes all the time more blatantly and in the wide open. When they don’t get their way they become the “victims”
R. S. says
It’s painfully obvious now that the entire scheme was never about the money; it was all about the voter suppression to shore up a Trumpublican minority government in Florida and in the US.
deborah mott says
So now we know the real reason is that DeSantis is scared of the additional voting power verses wanting to bring money into the state!
To mix this subject in with the “Trump Army Poll Watchers “, if you show up in Flagler, there will be a large group of real Americans watching you. Bullshit like that will be countered aggressively. Watch yourself.
Concerned Citizen says
As a victim of a felons crime.
The 4th amendment clearly stated that upon all conditions of a sentence could a felons right to vote be restored. Fines and restitution are a part of that sentencing. And are agreed on by the felon when you sign the sentencing agreement. Whether you think that is fair or not is on you.
Everyone is crying foul because these felons cannot vote. Where is the uproar that they are felons in the first place? And where is the uproar for victims rights? 10 years ago my home was burglarized and it ended up costing thousands of dollars and a loss of security that has never been replaced. 10 years later and I still haven’t recieved the restitution that was sentenced and probably never will. So you’ll understand why I seem “bitter and uncaring” I didn’t ask to be victimized. I did all the right things securing my property. Yet someone chose my home that day. While I was at work working hard to provide for the things that I wanted. They chose to smash an expensive sliding glass door. And they chose to rob me of expensive hard earned property. And irreplacable family heirlooms.
I was a Fire Fighter at the time and was working a Motor Vehicle Accident. We saved that patient that morning and I was proud of that. As I return to quarters I’m told by my Captain I need to run home and meet with the SO as they are on scene. I’ll never forget that day as he drove me to the house and I see patrol cars in the drive way and deputies going in and out of my home. I was livid. I had done everything I was supposed to yet none of it mattered. Because two dope heads with lengthy rap sheets and already on active probation had forcefully entered my home. And had hit others as well. My life was irrevocably changed forever that morning.
After the burglary I would spend three nights in a hotel for fear that they might return and put me in a position of having to defend myself. For weeks after every unknown noise would put me on edge and cost me sleep. I would eventually decide to not renew my lease at that location and move. I would end up loosing time from work dealing with insurance adjusters (some are just as bad as felons), lawyers and court dates. All because of those 2 felons.
I share this with you so you get a sense of what a felons victim goes thru. So cry foul all you want. Unless you have been directly impacted by a felon you have no idea what a victim goes thru. The loss of voting rights pale in comparison to what they did to a victim.
Wah freaking wah I say. Complete that sentence, pay ALL monies then petition to get your rights restored. If you follow the program I have zero issue with you getting those rights back. Don’t want to follow the process? Don’t commit a felony and victimize people.
I end with simply repeating. Felons rights? What about victims rights?
It so funny when Republicans get their panties in a bind when a Democrat steals a play out of the Republican Hypocrisy playbook. Go Bloomberg!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) LOL!
Yes Bloomberg is buying votes. Bloomberg actually bought himself a third term as Mayor of NYC.
A Concerned Observer says
Several commenters to this article seem not to care what the point of the article is, but are apparently vehemently anti President Trump and Governor DeSantis or anyone from the Republican Party and wish to vent their bile at any opportunity. BTW, that is President Trump and Governor DeSantis, NOT Trump or DeSantis. You should know and understand the law passed by Florida Voters before comment on this news article. If you have a passionate objection to the requirement for convicted felons to fulfill all legal financial obligations but do not understand the law as passed, at least read this article. The bill clearly stipulates that a convicted fellow must pay all required “legal financial obligations — fees, fines, costs and restitution — to be eligible to vote.” This is a requirement to withhold voting rights to a convicted felon that is under a court order to pay outstanding child support, court ordered fines or restitution to an innocent person or company they have stolen from, defrauded or have been assessed a financial liability resulting from a civil lawsuit. It is a small incentive for them to satisfy their liabilities to their innocent victims. There are penalties for criminal actions. Voting rights belong to those who do live within the law, not to those convicted of serious felony crimes and yet somehow feel that they are now above the law. If you cannot do the time, don’t do the crime. By-By Bad Guy…
Billy C. says
You seem to be the one who has misinterpreted the fervor on the part of our fellow commentors. Yes many of us are anti-Trump and anti-Desantis, and also not fond of you dictating what titles we should place before names of elected officials that have proven to be incompetent buffoons. The article is discussing whether Desantis’ call for an investigation of Bloomberg and other parties’ donations is a) voter suppression b) an illegal contribution. So, spare us the lecture because these people did the time and the restitution has been determined to be owed. So, either accept the money regardless of source or tie the issue up in legal mumbo-jumbo until after the election showing that all that DeSantis (Trump’s puppet) was doing was suppressing the vote.
Honest Ab says
The former felons have paid their debt by serving jail time and far as restitution is concerned; go ahead and pay the fine so the victim(s) can find closure and let them vote it’s their right. It’s nobody’s business who they Vote for. In reality the Governor is manipulating the Florida vote with the underhanded law he and his flunkies passed
James Clair says
WE THE PEOPLE voted to allow felons who had completed their sentence the right to be able to vote!
Everyone deserves a second chance. Then this corrupt, Trump clone wanna a be decides that he can change the will of the people to fit his agenda !!
BS. Thank you Mr. Bloomberg for standing for what’s right !!!!!
DeSantis and Trump are two peas in a pod… and not a good one !
bill in your pocket barr along with rudi are on the next plane to Tallahassee.
Gary R says
Nobody knows how the Florida felons will vote. Doesn’t matter anyways because Trump will win by a landslide. Just look at how many people show up at his rallies. The Democrats should of put up a better candidate. The Evidence Is Clear: Polls Are Not To Be Trusted https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomaslandstreet/2019/08/21/the-evidence-is-clear-polls-are-not-to-be-trusted/#1f7493b347a6
Michael Bloomberg sure likes to waste money.
We voted and passed the amendment to allow felons to vote. The Repugnant senate tacked on the pay your dues before you can vote nonsense. Bloomberg isn’t saying, “cash for dem votes,” no that’s a repug thing—“Hey Puerto Rico, here’s some money, you’re welcome! Signed, The wannabe dictator for life and constant constitution crapper DJ Trump.”
I really could careless about this election. The entire thing is corrupt. I’m an independent.
I have no desire to vote myself.
And after this election I’m leaving the United States. I have my passport and Everything I need to get the hell out of this entire corrupt POS government. I will not live in a communist country.
C’mon man says
I wonder if he will pay my student loans off???
Born and raised here says
Who cares who pays off there fines, as long as they’re paid.
How convenient Bloomberg is now worried about the felons. Wow, where was he earlier in the year to take up this cause? Only now so he can do anything to defeat Trump.
Bloomberg so much as stated he believes the majority of felons will vote Democrat. So, he has knowledge he is helping Biden with his money. That is illegal under federal law, and the dumbass made the case against him much easier. Anyone who thinks Bloomberg is doing this out of the goodness of his heart is beyond gullible. He stated in the past that he believed foreign workers should have priority over Americans for American jobs. That doesn’t sound like some one who cares about American workers; why would he care even more about felons, in Florida no less? If some one is allowed to pay a criminal’s restitution, why not just allow other people to serve their time in prison as well? Back to my original point: it is illegal under federal law to give something of value in exchange for their vote. Granted, lately Democrats don’t seem to have any regard for the law.
Gary R says
Constitutional Amendment 4/Felon Voting Rights
What standards govern eligibility to vote after a felony conviction?
A felony conviction in Florida for murder or a sexual offense makes a person ineligible to vote in Florida unless and until the person’s right to vote is restored by the State Clemency Board.
For any other felony conviction in Florida, a person is eligible to register and vote if the person has completed all terms of his or her sentence. Completion of the sentence means:
Prison or jail time;
Parole, probation, or other forms of supervision; and
Payment of the total amount of all fines, fees, costs, and restitution ordered as part of the felony sentence.
What part of payment of the total amount do you people not understand?
Yeah he is kindly paying off fines, only for black people who always vote 90%+ Democratic. It’s out of his own good natured heart though lol. He doesn’t care at all about people. All he cares about is paying fines for the demographic that he knows will get the most votes for his candidate per dollar spent. If you can’t see through this, or see the problem with it, you are blind. I’ve cast my last vote for a Democrat, for anything, ever.
Honest Ab says
Who cares if 100% are black. Are you prejudice? 100% of White’s in Florida are not 100% white (African blood running through their veins). And does that even matter? This is about a Governor that is interfering with the rights of all Florida citizens to help his boss in the White House.
Are you daft? My point was clearly laid out and has nothing to do with being prejudiced. He is selecting only black people as they are well known to vote over 90% of the time for Democrats (feel free to google it). The Democrats use them for votes, they don’t give a hoot about them. Bloomberg isn’t paying fines for white people as he knows they have a higher chance of voting Trump. So much for white privilege. If you’re a black felon who hasn’t paid your own restitution for your own crimes, congrats, he’ll pay them for you so you can vote for Biden. If you are white, you get to pay your own as you might vote Trump. Imagine being the victim of a violent crime of one of these felons, they never pay their restitution, and now it’s paid for them just so they can vote for a Democrat. If you don’t have a problem with this, then you are the one who is prejudiced.
Billy C. says
Bloomberg’s donation being earmarked for Black and Hispanic ex-felons may seem to be “unfair” to you but the funds contributed by other groups (and there are others who have collected funds) are for anyone regardless of grouping. I donate to the YMCA and I am not Christian. Am I buying votes or favor? BTW the Lebron and Jordan have no restrictions on their donations so, in the end I am sure everyone who can have their fines paid off will have it done. If they vote Dem it should be no concern to you. Restitution of their voting rights gives them the right to choose just the same as you have that right.
But it is okay for Trump to buy the seniors vote with a 200 med card???? Can we say double standards. I’m not saying that a $200 gift card is much or even puts a dent in medical cost, but we all know that is what he is attempting to do.