Mayor Andrew Gillum released travel receipts Tuesday for personal trips he took to New York City and Costa Rica that are under investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
But the early evening document drop by Gillum’s campaign for governor was more remarkable for what it didn’t include — receipts from any of the New York outings he took in August 2016 with his former friend, lobbyist Adam Corey, his brother, Marcus Gillum and two undercover FBI agents.
There was nothing to show who paid for his tickets to “Hamilton” or his stay at the Millennium Hotel or who exactly arranged a boat outing to the Statue of Liberty.
The mayor recently told national media outlets that Corey gave a "Hamilton" ticket to Marcus Gillum, who in turn gave the ticket to the mayor. However, Corey's attorney Chris Kise of Tallahassee contradicted that account and suggested that FBI agents picked up the tab.
Gillum, who shocked the political establishment by winning the Democratic nomination for governor, pledged last month during an appearance before South Florida newspaper editors that he would release receipts from his trip to New York and another trip to Costa Rica.
Big Apple outings with the FBI
Gillum flew to New York City on Aug. 9, 2016, as part of his then-job with the People for the American Way Foundation, his campaign said in a narrative on his website. He traveled to participate in a meeting of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic organization founded by George Soros, a major Gillum donor.
He stayed at the Ameritania Hotel through the morning of Aug. 11. On the night of the 11th, he stayed with his brother at the Millennium Hotel, the campaign said. The campaign turned over a receipt from the Ameritania showing two nights billed, on Aug. 9 and 10. The charge was $438. Also listed on the receipt was the Open Society Foundations.
But while Gillum was in New York City, he went on outings with Corey and others, including the FBI agents, who posed as out-of-town developer Mike Miller and medical marijuana entrepreneur Mike Sweets. Photos of the boat ride surfaced last year, including one showing Gillum, Corey and Miller near the Statue of Liberty.
Gillum later told the Tallahassee Democrat one of the photos was taken by an undercover agent. He cut ties with Corey after revelations about the FBI investigation became public.
Miller was involved in arranging rooms for Gillum and others at the Millennium Hilton, according to a Google calendar invitation obtained and reported by the Democrat last year. The FBI has a long tradition of surreptitiously recording elected officials in hotel rooms, although it's unknown if it happened in this case.
Corey sent Gillum and his brother Marcus the invitation labeled, “New York Visit with the Crew,” a reference to Corey’s circle of friends.
“Gents, Here is the plan from Mike Miller: We are going to do the Mets game Wednesday night. My buddy arranged another boat deal for us Thursday afternoon. Also, we have rooms arranged for everyone starting Wednesday night at the (Millennium) Hilton,” the invitation states.
In an interview with the Democrat, Corey's lawyer said his client “didn’t pay for any of this.”
“He didn’t pay for the ‘Hamilton’ tickets,'” Kise said. “He didn’t pay for the Mets tickets. He didn’t pay for the hotel.”
Geoff Burgan, Gillum's campaign spokesman, said Tuesday night that Gillum never attended a Mets game on the trip.
Tight-lipped on details
The mayor has been reluctant to discuss the trip to New York City. When the Democrat asked him last summer about “Hamilton” and who paid for it, Gillum responded, “I have no knowledge of any of that.”
Gillum declined to tell the Democrat last year whether he stayed at the Millennium or even visited. However, he told the New York Times last week he stayed at the hotel and his brother covered the cost.
He told the Washington Post that Corey gave a "Hamilton" ticket to Marcus Gillum in exchange for a ticket to a Jay-Z show. Gillum added he didn't know that detail until a lawyer interviewed his brother as part of the state ethics probe.
Kise, however, said: "The whole story of getting the tickets from his brother is nonsensical."
He added his client is not a target in the FBI probe.
Gillum told the Democrat in a January interview, “I never took anything that I did not pay for myself."
“To be further fair on that, I didn’t associate a value to being on the boat," he said. "Largely because one of the guys said it was their friend’s boat and did we want to go out to the Statue of Liberty.”
He later called the Democrat to clarify that Marcus Gillum covered some of the expenses.
The Costa Rica connection
As previously reported by the Democrat, Gillum and his wife went to Costa Rica May 4-8, 2016, to celebrate her birthday with close friends Sean and Audra Pittman and Adam Corey, along with an entourage of Corey’s business associates and friends.
“They were part of a group of approximately a dozen people who stayed at Villa Paraiso,” the campaign said in a press release. The lodging was $1,400 a night.
“Mayor Gillum and his wife paid cash for their portion of the group lodging … and paid by credit card for other outings,” the campaign said. If pro-rated equally their share should have been about $935 for the two of them.
The night before Gillum and wife flew out of Jacksonville on May 4, they withdrew $400 cash from the Centennial bank ATM at 6529 Thomasville Road. The receipts and bank records he provided show they bought two plane tickets for $429 each, or $860. Their credit card charges totaled nearly $590.
During that Costa Rican vacation, Corey sent a calendar invite to Gillum scheduling a May 16 introduction at the Edison between himself, Gillum and Miller.
Kise, who served as Florida’s solicitor general in the mid-2000s, said Corey won the Costa Rica accommodations during a silent auction at a charity event. The house was put up by Lance Barton, a co-founder of the Old School Foundation with Corey. The organization throws lavish pre-game parties during football season and holds a charity golf tournament and other fundraising events.
“As of this moment, Mr. Corey never received any cash from the mayor for the Costa Rica accommodation,” Kise said by phone Tuesday night. “He may have paid cash to someone — He certainly didn’t pay cash to Adam Corey.”
The politics of the FBI case
Gillum turned over the receipts to the Ethics Commission, which began investigating the trips after getting a complaint against him last year. He released the receipts publicly hours after meeting with the commission, accompanied by his personal Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard.
In a prepared statement, Gillum downplayed the release of the receipts in favor of criticizing his GOP rival for governor, Congressman Ron DeSantis, and President Donald Trump. He called on both to stop undermining the FBI’s probe into Russian electoral interference.
“The FBI has a job to do — and whether it’s Washington D.C. or Florida, Congressman DeSantis and President Trump should allow the agency to do its work,” said Gillum. “Here in Florida, we’ve done everything we can to aid the agency, while Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump have done the exact opposite — demonizing the FBI and making the case that collusion is not a crime. It has to end.”
A DeSantis’ campaign spokesman, Stephen Lawson, issued a statement saying the receipts raised more questions about Gillum and the FBI investigation.
“It becomes clearer by the day why the FBI is interested in Andrew Gillum and his associates,” Lawson said. “These receipts do nothing to shed light on his luxury trips to Costa Rica and New York City with lobbyists and undercover FBI agents. In fact, they simply raise more questions about Gillum’s ongoing involvement. The people of Florida deserve answers, and Andrew Gillum keeps refusing to provide them.”
The Republican Party of Florida chimed in Wednesday morning with a news release echoing remarks from the DeSantis campaign.
"The 'release' was incomplete at best, and at worst another attempt by Andrew Gillum to obscure the truth," the GOP said.