Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, had an idea to raise money for his 2016 Senate campaign: Hold a fund-raiser as a tie-in with an upcoming concert appearance by Justin Timberlake at BB&T Center in Sunrise. There's just one problem: Timberlake is performing there on March 4, the opening day of the 2014 legislative session.
Legislators are forbidden from soliciting or raising campaign money during regular sessions. But lobbyists all over Tallahassee got solicitations from Waldman's campaign, seeking $1,000 checks to an event that lists Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter as a host.
Waldman says it was a mistake. "It went out in error. I hadn't given clearance," the lawmaker said. "I hadn't approved the invite."
Waldman said he received a verbal opinion from Tallahassee lawyer Mark Herron, an expert in campaign finance laws, that it would be legal to hold the event on March 4 as long as all contributions were received before that date and no fund-raising took place at the event. (Waldman himself couldn't attend because he has to be in Tallahassee).
Herron confirmed that version of events, and said he was not aware of another candidate who has arranged a fund-raiser in the same manner.
Waldman joked that Timberlake, former lead singer of the boy hand 'N Sync, wouldn't re-schedule his concert tour to accommodate fund-raising rules of the Florida Legislature. Waldman is a candidate for the Northwest Broward Senate seat that will be vacated by the term-limited Democrat Jeremy Ring in 2016.
As questions swirled about the suspect timing of the event, campaign strategist Jeff Ryan sent an email to lobbyists. "Please disregard the flyer e-mailed today for the concert fundraiser," the Monday email read. "The scheduling of this event is not set."