“Similarly, in today’s highly charged political climate, LPAD’s donors could face reputational and economic harm as a result of their association being made public,” the lawyers argued. “And, on a broader scale, disclosure in this case could chill speech across the political spectrum, as donors to other nonprofit organizations may choose to forgo future donations out of the fear that their association may one day be made public.”
In a 12-page motion, lawyers for Let’s Preserve the American Dream, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit organization run by Ryan Tyson, argued that the bank records must remain secret because they contain privileged information protected by the First Amendment and Florida’s criminal procedure rules.
The bank records were obtained by investigators who are examining potential election and campaign finance law violations stemming from a 2020 Miami-Dade election scheme. Investigators are also looking at $550,000 in untraceable money that paid for political mail advertisements in support of the sham candidates involved in the scheme.
Related: Prominent Florida political consultants may face criminal charges in sham candidate case
The Sentinel later reported that records show Tyson instructed an accountant and banker to wire Grow United $600,000 on Sept. 29, 2020.
The half a million dollars in spending was paid for by another dark money group, Grow United. According to a 2020 tax return obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Tyson’s group reported that it gave $1.15 million to Grow United in 2020.
Days later, Grow United sent $550,000 to the two political committees that paid for the advertisements.
No charges have been brought against Tyson or his dark-money organization, and neither have been accused of wrongdoing, his lawyers said. They also said that Tyson voluntarily appeared for an interview with prosecutors to “demonstrate that LPAD complies with all state, federal and local laws.”
Unlike political committees, which are legally required to disclose their donors, dark money groups are not required by law to do so, which makes them useful for funders who don’t want their identities revealed when backing certain campaigns or causes. Dark money groups also don’t have spending limits as a result of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which reversed campaign finance restrictions. These groups are used by Republicans and Democrats alike.
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Let’s Preserve the American Dream is not the only target of prosecutors amid the ongoing investigation in Miami. Prosecutors have also targeted Alex Alvarado, a Republican consultant; Dan Newman, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, and Richard Alexander, the chairman of the dark-money group Grow United.
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