Somebody over at Perry Thurston’s campaign headquarters needs a refresher course on Florida elections laws. Once again, the Florida Department of State has mailed an audit letter to Perry Thurston regarding improper campaign financial reports. Thurston, the former Minority Leader in the Florida House, is running for the Florida Senate District 31 seat.
Thurston opened his Senate campaign in January 2013. Since then, he ran for re-election for his House seat and statewide for Florida Attorney General. One would reasonably assume Team Perry could figure out how to file a campaign financial report. Right?
Well, you would be wrong.
Since 2013, the State of Florida has sent Thurston ten audit letters. Most of the letters required Thurston to provide name and addresses of campaign donors. Thurston has been fined by the State for improper reporting. On November 30, the State sent Thurston a second notice regarding a $1,500 contribution.
Thurston is no stranger when it comes to ignoring elections laws.
RESIDENCY GAMES EXPOSED
In 2013, an investigation by this reporter exposed Thurston’s flouting of the State Constitution’s residency requirements. Thurston admitted he lives outside his House district “when I want to.” Thurston’s admission added weight to evidence he livef outside the House district he represents, in violation of the Florida Constitution. Article III of the Florida Constitution requires state legislators to live in the districts they represent. WPLG LOCAL 10 reporter Bob Norman caught Thurston at the Plantation home he owns with his wife outside the House district he represents. Thurston represents House District 94 while living in House District 99 in Plantation.
Thurston claimed to be living with a convicted felon in a small home in Lauderhill, rather than with his wife and children in their two-story Plantation home. The Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office determined Thurston “violated the law” by using the homestead tax exemption for his Plantation home while he claimed to be living in Lauderhill. The Property Appraiser removed Perry Thurston’s exemption.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
In September, REDBROWARD showed the Thurston campaign was spending its money paying members of the Thurston family.
According to the Florida Department of Elections, since January 2013, Thurston has raised nearly $55,000 for his State Senate campaign. Not surprisingly, as the minority leader of the Florida House, most of Thurston’s campaign contributions came from special interest groups and political action committees. As of August 2015, the Thurston campaign has spent $26,156.37 of his contributions.
The records show the overwhelming majority of the money was paid to Thurston and his wife Dawn. Since 2013, the campaign has paid $6,923.04 to Dawn Thurston. The campaign stated the expenditures were made for “canvassing,” “meals,” “campaign supplies,” “campaign expences [sic],” and “campaign expendatures [sic].” Since March 2015, Mrs. Thurston has received $5,071.61 from her husband’s campaign.
Campaign records show multiple payments to Perry Thurston, Floyd Thurston and Frances Merricks. In April 2013, this reporter exposed Frances Merricks’ role in Thurston’s residency games. Thurston claimed to be living with a convicted felon in Merricks’ small home, rather than with his wife and children in the two-story home he owns in Plantation, in order to meet elected officials’ residency requirements in the Florida Constitution.
CLARKE-REED ISN’T MUCH BETTER
State records show Thurston’s Democrat opponent isn’t much better at following the rules. State Rep. Gywndolen Clarke-Reed has received five audit letters since opening her campaign in June 2015. At least Clarke-Reed lives in the district she represents.