It turns out State Sen. Charlie Justice, who is running for the congressional seat now held by veteran U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, used donations to pay off a state fine.
Justice, D-St. Petersburg, paid $1,000 out of his now shuttered state senate campaign account in Oct. 2008. The money was used to settle a case over the fact that he accepted two $500 contributions for his 2006 campaign after the contributors had already given the maximum amount for the primary.
Justice said the initial case was due to a "bookkeeping error" because the donations were supposed to come into his campaign account after the primary and be used for the general election. He said he only used campaign money to pay the fine to the Florida Elections Commission after he consulted an attorney about it.
"I went on the advice of an attorney who said that was appropriate,'' said Justice on Monday. "I asked him several times to make sure."
There are in fact sections of the campaign finance law that requires a candidate to use personal funds, including chapter 106.07(8) which says candidates must use their own money to pay a fine for filing a late campaign report and that it is not an allowable campaign expense. Another section of law that requires statewide candidates and legislators to register whenever they start collecting money for a 527 also requires any violators to pay fines from personal funds. Statewide candidates who agree to abide by campaign spending limits must also use personal money if they exceed the limit.
But this requirement is not included in the section of law, chapter 106.19, that Justice was accused of violating by the Florida Elections Commission.
Jeff Ryan, a Democratic Party fundraiser, raised money from several donors to pay off a $209,000 fine to the elections commission.