A political action group, Protect Venice, will be fined for a negative campaign flyer that was distributed in October 2017 during a Venice City Council race.
The flyer claimed to provide information about former council member Deborah Anderson, citing newspaper accounts of her performance and various votes taken at city council meetings.
Anderson lost to Council Member Charles Newsom, who took office in November 2017.
Anderson filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission on April 9, 2018, alleging the flyer violated numerous election laws.
In the FEC order, signed by Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, and an attorney for Protect Venice treasurer Ann Stone, Stone will be directed to pay various fines totaling $4,000.
The commission will sign off on the fines at its next meeting.
The order imposes a $1,000 civil penalty for having insufficient funds in the PAC’s campaign depository to pay for the flyer. Stone was also fined $1,000 for filing an incorrect campaign expense report, and $2,000 in additional enhanced penalties.
Stone used a Venice UPS mailing address for the flyer.
Just days before the November 2017 election, Anderson called the flyer a “hit piece” mailer on her Facebook page.
“I’m very happy with the outcome,” Anderson said. “I think that the amount of the fine clearly reflects how serious the campaign finance violations are. I find the large amount from ‘dark money’ political action committees spent in city council races is very disturbing. An illegal campaign is ultimately an unfair campaign and frustrates the will of the people.”
Anderson said she also filed a lawsuit against Stone and Protect Venice for defamation, criminal conspiracy, and violation of campaign finance laws, among other things.
Another PAC, The Committee for a Better Florida, Inc., which also sent campaign flyers in the same race, is also under investigation by the FEC, Anderson said.
Attempts to reach Stone for comment were not successful.