FDLE drops investigation into Mike Bloomberg over program to pay off felon court debts

Politics
Michael Bloomberg

FILE – In this Jan. 19, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, Okla. They are circling each other like wary boxers, with taunts on Twitter, snarky asides and belittling depictions of one another. They rose to prominence in Manhattan on parallel tracks, amassed wealth real and perceived and displayed a penchant for putting their names on things. President Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg could hardly be more different as people but now they both want the same job: Trump’s. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

TAMPA (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has ended its probe into former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s program to pay off court debts for Floridians with felony convictions so they could regain their right to vote in last year’s presidential election.

The investigation began after the former Democratic presidential candidate pledged a donation of at least $16 million to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

“No evidence was developed to indicate that the FRRC directed any individual to vote for a specific political party as a condition of paying outstanding fees,” an FDLE spokesperson told 8 On Your Side.

A Washington Post report alleged the money from Bloomberg would register 32,000 black and Hispanic voters, saying they are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody had requested the FBI and FDLE investigate the matter, citing a Florida statute the prohibits offering incentives for voters.

According to the FDLE, investigators spent more than 700 hours looking into this matter and reviewed more than 7,000 documents from the FRRC and court clerk offices. They also reached out to more than 100 individuals whose fines were paid by the FRRC.

“After a review of the data, no donations from Bloomberg were identified nor were any violations of Florida election laws (Florida Statute 104.061) found. Based on the lack of a criminal predicate, no further investigate activity was conducted regarding the payments that were made to the clerk of court offices,” an FDLE memo said.

“We are appreciative of the efforts by FDLE to end this inquiry,” said Desmond Meade, the Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “Our movement is focused on putting people over politics. We work to remove barriers to reentry and democracy for people, and create stronger, safer communities for everyone in the process. Expanding democracy and strengthening communities is at the heart of our Fines and Fees Program. We look forward to continuing to defend justice, freedom, and democracy across the state of Florida.”

After nearly two-thirds of Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in 2018 to restore voting rights for returning citizens after completing their sentences for non-violent crimes, Gov. DeSantis in 2019 signed into law a bill requiring they pay off all outstanding court debts before voting.

An estimate from the fall found there about 750,000 former felons in Florida who are blocked from voting because of outstanding costs related to their sentence.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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