A 2020 Florida Senate candidate and two political operatives, including the chairman of the Seminole County Republican Party, were charged Tuesday after an investigation into alleged campaign-finance violations.
The State Attorney’s Office in the 18th Judicial Circuit said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation that centered on Jestine Iannotti, a candidate who ran without political affiliation in Senate District 9 in 2020.
The allegations involve Iannotti running as what is known as a “ghost” candidate to help Republican Jason Brodeur, who defeated Democrat Patricia Sigman in a fiercely contested race.
“Some NPA (no party affiliation) candidates, commonly referred to as ‘ghost’ candidates, have been used by political parties as a way to close elections or siphon off votes,” State Attorney Phil Archer said in a prepared statement. “While not illegal per se, many have questioned the ethics of the practice. However, when that candidate and the partisan political operatives involved violate election finance laws by illegally funding those races and filing false reports, it is the responsibility of government to act. Today’s actions represent our commitment to ensuring the integrity of Florida’s election process and holding those who violate state campaign laws accountable.”
Iannotti faces six charges, while political operative James Foglesong faces five charges, and Seminole County Republican Chairman Benjamin Paris faces one charge, according to a news release from the State Attorney’s Office.
FDLE previously arrested Foglesong in 2019 on four counts of grand theft after an investigation showed he stole approximately $20,000 from a political action committee he had co-founded during the 2018 election for Orange County Sheriff.
Many of the charges relate to alleged violations of campaign-finance laws, though Iannotti also faces perjury charges.