Congresswoman Frederica Wilson is the second south Florida Democrat running television commercials paid for with official funds. Wilson is the longtime representative of CD -24 which covers parts of Broward and Miami-Dade. But it was Wilson’s newest colleague in Congress who drew the media’s ire.
In June, Inside Elections first reported on three commercials from Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus McCormick. The ads included an odd disclaimer which read, “Paid for with official funds from the office of Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.” While rare, Inside Elections conceded, “members of Congress are allowed to use official funds for TV ads, as long as they cover official business and steer clear of campaign content.”
However, the slick style of advertising lead the website to wonder if McCormick was “blurring lines.”
“A review of House ethics rules suggests Cherfilus-McCormick is operating in a significant gray area when it comes to how members can and cannot spend official funds. And her past financial filings show that it’s not the first time the congresswoman has come under scrutiny for her use of taxpayer dollars while seeking office,” Inside Elections reported.
But if McCormick is operating in a gray area, she is not alone.
Frederica Wilson is running the same slick commercials masquerading as informational messages. The Wilson ads tout money she’s brought home to her district. She reads a laundry list of projects she helped fund for cities in her district like Hollywood, West Park and Opa-Locka.
The Wilson ad includes this disclaimer, “Paid for with official funds from the office of Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson.”
According to the Sun-Sentinel, The Republican Party pounced on the issue. A Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesperson said, “Not only are Florida Democrats incompetent, they’re also corrupt.”
So why are Democrats even using official funds to help Sheila Cherfilus McCormick and Frederica Wilson?
McCormick is the newcomer facing a primary challenge by former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. Even though she beat Holness by just 5 votes, most insiders believe McCormick will easily win the Democrat primary in August.
The news surrounding the always controversial Holness keeps getting worse. On Friday, Omar Smith, his longtime campaign operative, pled guilty to Federal felony charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud. Smith faces up to thirty years in prison. Last month, Holness’ daughter began a twenty-month prison term on similar charges.
While Wilson avoided a real primary challenge, the 79 year-old Congresswoman faced real criticism over absenteeism and proxy votes.
Stop us if this sounds familiar. A shady political action committee (PAC), started by operatives of Congressional candidate Dale Holness, paid big bucks to companies tied to Dale Holness operatives. Federal records show Kayla Butler, a Palm Beach yoga instructor, formed the “Prosperity For All People” political committee in October 2019. While paperwork for the committee claimed the committee was located at a Boca Raton Pak Mail store, a scan of the envelope lists its address as 4325 West Sunrise Blvd in Plantation.
This is the address of Dale Holness’ All Broward Realty company as well as the address of his campaign office.
Before it’s “administrative termination” by the Federal Elections Commission in February 2021, Prosperity For All People raised $24,000 from seventeen contributions.
Prosperity For All People’s only expenditure came nine months later. The committee reported a $15,000 payment to All Priority Consulting, Inc. located at The UPS Store on University Drive in Lauderhill.
According to State Corporation records, All Priority Consulting, Inc. was formed in July 2020 by Karlisle Williamson Jr.
While its latest filing with the State of Florida uses the same Lauderhill UPS Store as its address, when first formed, All Priority Consulting used a different location.
Paperwork filed in July 2020 states All Priority Consulting was located at 5523 Barnstead Circle in Lake Worth, Florida.
TEAM HOLNESS: STRONGER TOGETHER?
REDBROWARD previously reported on Kayla Butler’s role in forming political committees tied to Dale Holness. On July 20, 2020, Butler, a paid intern on Dale Holness 2016 Broward Commission campaign, filed paperwork forming the Stronger Together Florida political with the Division of Elections in Tallahassee. According to the documents, the political committee is located at home on Barnstead Circle in Lake Worth, Florida. The telephone number for the committee is (754) 444-6117.
The telephone number for Stronger Together Florida is also found in State records regarding third party groups conducting voter registrations. The number is listed for “All Consulting And Marketing, Inc.” which conducted voter registration drives at 4325 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation since May, 2019.
Once again, this is the same address for All Broward Realty, Inc, a real estate company owned by Dale Holness.
According to the State third party voter registration records and State corporate records, All Consulting And Marketing Inc. is owned by Richelle Holness, the daughter of Broward Mayor Dale Holness.
State license records show Richelle Holness is a licensed real estate agent at All Broward Realty.
Last year, REDBROWARD called Richelle Holness to ask about her ties to these political committees.
After confirming she was Richelle Holness, she said, “You know you’re calling Richelle. I don’t know why you’re calling me.” After advising Holness that her telephone number was listed in the documents filed with the Florida Division of Elections, we asked what was the purpose of the PAC. Holness said, “You can look it up on FEC [Federal Elections Committee] or whatever.”
When asked if she knew Kayla Butler, Holness said, “Thank you for your time, goodbye” and hung up.
OMAR SMITH & THE LADY ON BARNSTEAD CIRCLE
REDBROWARD later revealed that the house at 5523 Barnstead Circle was the home of Dale Holness’ ex-wife, Ann. Within hours of the publication of our story, Omar Smith called REDBROWARD. Smith begged us to removed Holness’ ex-wife name from the story. He claimed she played no role in politics. While speaking to Smith, a angry female voice could be heard yelling at him.
ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT & SHERIFF GREGORY TONY
In addition to Butler’s Prosperity For All People, All Priority Consulting received money from other political committees involved in Broward elections. REDBROWARD exposed how funds from a committee supporting Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony were funneled to Holness operatives. Broward First was a political committee supporting Tony’s election in 2020.
In the weeks surrounding the August 2020 primary, the Parkland-based Broward First political committee sent $36,750 to two different political committees in Fort Lauderdale. On July 27, 2020 Broward First made a $16,000 contribution to the Young Professionals For Florida political committee. On August 25, 2020 Broward First made a $20,750 contribution to the South Florida Accountability Project.
On July 27, 2020, Young Professionals For Florida made a $16,000 contribution to the South Florida Accountability Project.
On that very day, Karlisle Williamson Jr. created All Priority Consulting, Inc., State corporation records show.
Less than a month later, the South Florida Accountability Project paid $15,000 to All Priority Consulting.
On August 12, 2020 the money was refunded to the political committee. It was repaid to All Priority Consulting on August 13, 2020.
On September 2, 2020, the South Florida Accountability Project paid $20,000 to A Star For I, Inc. As REDBROWARD reported on numerous occasions. A Star For I, Inc. is owned and operated by Dale Holness campaign guru Omar M. Smith.
Last week, Federal prosecutors charged Omar Smith with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud to fraudulently obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Smith received a $215,500 PPP loan for his A Star For I company.
One shady political committee based at Dale Holness’ real estate office. Another PAC based at his ex-wife’s home. And, a political consulting company located at the ex-wife’s home as well. Huge paydays for Omar Smith.
Earlier this week, REDBROWARD revealed All Consulting Broward, a company owned by Richelle Holness, was paid $350,000 in 2020 for GOTV consulting by the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida.
Why was so much money money being paid to operatives and companies tied to Dale Holness during the election of 2020?