Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's congressional campaign is calling on Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to return a $5,000 contribution from a political action committee headed by a lawmaker who is accused of molesting a teenager a decade ago.
Curbelo's campaign said Mucarsel-Powell should return the contribution from BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm, because the PAC is led by California Rep. Tony Cardenas. Cardenas is being sued in California for allegedly drugging and fondling a teenage girl in 2007. He denies the charges and has set up a legal defense fund. The all-Democratic Hispanic Caucus is supporting him and allowing him to continue running the PAC, though House minority leader Nancy Pelosi did order the House Ethics Commission to investigate.
"Mucarsel-Powell tries to claim she stands with victims of sexual violence, but when Pelosi and the Democratic establishment told her to ignore serious allegations of sexual assault and take Tony Cardenas’s money anyway, that’s exactly what she did. Her continued silence is an insult to all who have been victims of sexual assault," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "Debbie Mucarsel-Powell owes it to victims to return the donation and be transparent about her continuous embrace of political support from Cardenas’ PAC."
The demand to return money comes months after Curbelo donated contributions from disgraced former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Pat Meehan. Meehan used taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case and referred to the an aide who accused him of harassment as his "soul mate." Curbelo criticized Mucarsel-Powell for taking the PAC money in an interview with Politico Florida on Tuesday.
Curbelo tried to join the Hispanic Caucus last year but was rebuffed from the group that is currently made up of all Democrats.
Mucarsel-Powell's campaign referred to an earlier statement when asked about the demand to return the money.
"As a woman and a mother raising her two daughters these accusations are obviously concerning for Debbie and she’s waiting to learn more of the facts as the case develops," Mucarsel-Powell spokesperson Mike Hernandez said in a statement. "Frankly, it’s pathetic that Congressman Curbelo would use this as a political issue as he continues to welcome President Trump, who openly bragged about forcefully groping women and has been accused of sexual assault by no less than 11 women, to campaign with him."