Black money group asks judge to block bank statements that would reveal donors

MIAMI – Lawyers for a black money group led by a prominent Republican agent on Monday asked a Miami circuit court judge to block the release of bank documents that would disclose his donors, arguing that the disclosure of such information violate the constitutional rights of donors and could “speak coldly across the political spectrum.”

In a 12-page motion, attorneys for Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit led by Ryan Tyson, argued that bank documents should be kept secret because they contain inside information protected by the First Amendment and Florida Criminal Procedure Rules.

Likewise, in today’s busy political climate, LPAD donors could face reputational and economic damage due to the publication of their association, ”argued the lawyers. “And, on a larger scale, the disclosure in this case could cool the rhetoric across the political spectrum, as donors from other nonprofits may choose to forgo future donations for fear that their association will be. one day made public. “

The bank records were obtained by investigators examining potential violations of the Election and Campaign Finances Act resulting from a Miami-Dade election platform in 2020. Investigators are also examining $ 550,000 in untraceable money which paid for political advertisements by mail in support of the bogus candidates involved in the scheme.

Related: Prominent Florida political consultants could face criminal charges in bogus candidate case

The half-million dollar expense was paid for by another black money group, Grow United. According to a 2020 tax return obtained by the Orlando Sentry, Tyson’s group reported that they donated $ 1.15 million to Grow United in 2020.

the Sentinel reported later that records show Tyson asked an accountant and banker to wire Grow United $ 600,000 on September 29, 2020.

A few days later, Grow United sent $ 550,000 to the two political committees that paid for the ads.

No charges have been laid against Tyson or his black money organization, and neither has been charged with wrongdoing, his lawyers said. They also said Tyson voluntarily showed up for an interview with prosecutors to “demonstrate that the LPAD complies with all state, federal and local laws.”

Unlike political committees, which are legally required to disclose their donors, black money groups are not required by law to do so, making them useful for donors who do not want their identities revealed. when they support certain campaigns or causes.

Black money groups also don’t have spending limits following the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which rolled back campaign finance restrictions. These groups are used by Republicans as well as Democrats.

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A vast investigation

Preserving the American Dream isn’t the only target for prosecutors amid the ongoing Miami investigation.

Prosecutors also targeted Alex Alvarado, a Republican consultant; Dan Newman, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, and Richard Alexander, chairman of the black money group Grow United.

On December 23, 2021, each received what prosecutors call a “before” letter, which usually precedes criminal charges in a case. As of Monday, no charges were filed.

Last year, prosecutors filed charges against Frank Artiles, a Republican agent and former Miami state senator, and auto parts dealer Alexis Pedro Rodriguez, who investigators say was paid more than 40 $ 000 by Artiles to run as a non-party candidate to influence the outcome of the Miami-Dade District 37 Senate elections in 2020.

The two men were charged with conspiring to make or accepting campaign contributions in excess of legal limits, accepting and making such excess campaign contributions, false oath in an election and d ” help (and possibly submit) false voter information. Under state law, each of these counts is punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted.

The two pleaded not guilty in April and requested jury trials. In August, Rodriguez struck a plea deal and agreed to help prosecutors build their case against Artiles, the man who recruited him to run for office. In return for his guilty plea, Rodriguez will serve three years of probation, including one year under house arrest with a GPS monitor.

Lawyers for Tyson’s organization argue that bank records that would show Let’s Preserve the American Dream donations and contributions, from February 2020 to August 2021, are “irrelevant” to Artiles’ case.

They further contend that publication of the files would benefit only journalists who “continue to publish fancy stories suggesting that LPAD and Mr. Tyson have participated in criminal behavior.”

Lawyers for the Miami Herald, along with several other news outlets, have filed motions to intervene in earlier arguments to protect documents in this case.

Lawyers representing the media confirmed on Monday that they would oppose Tyson’s petition.

Ian Vandewalker, senior democracy advocate at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it made sense that a 501 (c) (4) prioritize protecting its donors, noting that politically active groups like Let’s Preserve the American Dream can explicitly tell donors that their names will be kept secret.

“Some of the big super PACs at the national level have another organization that’s made up of the same people, just another piece of paper,” said Vandewalker, whose work deals with the influence of money in politics and politics. foreign interference in the US elections. “They say, ‘You can give us and we will disclose or you can give to 501 (c) (4) and we won’t.’”

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