Congressman Matt Gaetz has warned billionaire Michael Bloomberg that his stunt paying the fines of convicted felons in Florida may result in criminal charges.
“Mini Mike” Bloomberg paid outstanding fines and fees of 32,000 convicted felons in Florida so they would be eligible to vote in the November election. But, he only paid those fines if the felon was black or hispanic.
During an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Gaetz said that he spoke with the Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody before appearing on the network.
It was reported on Tuesday, that Bloomberg raised over $16 million and donated $5 million to, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
Those funds went to paying the fines of felons so they could retain their voting rights.
A Bloomberg representative said in a statement to Axios, “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right. Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.”
However, the Florida Attorney General sees it differently and a criminal probe may already be underway.
“[Under Florida law] it’s a third-degree felony for someone to either directly or indirectly provide something of value to impact whether or not someone votes. So the question is whether or not paying off someone’s fines and legal obligations counts as something of value, and it clearly does. If Michael Bloomberg was offering to pay off people’s credit card debts, you would obviously see the value in that.”
“When you improve someone’s net worth by eliminating their financial liabilities, that’s something of value. Normally, it would be very difficult to prove that that was directly linked to impacting whether or not someone was going to vote. But they literally wrote their own admission,” Gaetz said.
The driver behind the probe is a memo obtained and published by the Washington Post. Bloomberg felt that this was the most cost-effective way “of adding votes to the Democratic column than investing money to persuade voters who already have the right to vote.”
“We have identified a significant vote share that requires a nominal investment. The data shows that in Florida, Black voters are a unique universe unlike any other voting bloc, where the Democratic support rate tends to be 90%-95%,” the memo read.
Gaetz believes that this memo is evidence to prove that this could be seen as bribery.
“The law is clear, this is something of value, and I am encouraged after my conversation with the attorney general. I hope we have good law enforcement all over the country looking for the cheating and the tricks that these Democrats are going to try in this election,” he explained.
Bloomberg’s organization has not responded to the allegations.