The Florida Commission on Ethics today released a trove of documents that darkens the cloud that has hung over Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign for months. They show an undercover FBI agent gave the Tallahassee mayor tickets to see the blockbuster Broadway show Hamilton during a 2016 trip to New York City.
Documents from the state ethics commission obtained and first reported by the Tampa Bay Times show former lobbyist Adam Corey helped arrange meetings between Gillum and undercover agents, including one who called himself Mike Miller, who was posing as a developer. The records were released by Corey’s lawyer, Chris Kise, just two weeks before the November election, following a subpoena.
Gillum has a narrow lead over his opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, and it’s unclear whether the latest development in the years-long federal corruption probe into Tallahassee’s government will turn voters away. The 39-year-old mayor has long insisted he is not a target of the probe and until today had not been named in any of the subpoenas sent to Tallahassee City Hall in connection with the probe.
During the gubernatorial debate broadcast on CNN this past Sunday, DeSantis hounded Gillum over the Hamilton tickets and his trip to Costa Rica, which is also under scrutiny by the ethics commission.
“The question is,” DeSantis said, “did you pay for the Hamilton ticket, or did the undercover FBI agent pay for the Hamilton ticket?”
“I’m a grown man,” Gillum replied, apparently dodging the query. “My wife and I take vacations, and we pay for our own vacations… I don’t take free trips from anybody.”
In a September 4 news release, Gillum’s campaign said his brother Marcus gave him the ticket. “After the trip, Mayor Gillum learned Marcus Gillum had obtained that ticket in a swap with Adam Corey for a concert ticket,” the campaign said.
Yet text messages included in the records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times call that claim into question.
“Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8 p.m.,” Corey texted Gillum August 10, 2016.
“Awesome news about Hamilton,” Gillum replied.
Gillum has not been charged with any crime, and it is unclear whether Gillum repaid the undercover agent in some way for his role in obtaining the tickets. The news of Miller’s involvement in the Hamilton tickets, though damning, still might seem like a less egregious violation to Florida voters than, say, the fact that Gillum’s opponent wrote a book excusing slavery, appeared with an anti-gay pundit who insulted Pulse nightclub victims, and has repeatedly made racist gaffes including saying that, if elected as Florida’s governor, Gillum would “monkey this up.”
In a Facebook message posted late Tuesday, Gillum said, “These messages only confirm what I have said all along. We did go see Hamilton. I did get the tickets from my brother. At the time we believed the tickets had been reserved by… Mike Miller. And when I got there after work, we went in and saw it. I assumed my brother had paid for it and as far as I know that was the deal.”
“As reflected by those records, no criminal activity took place,” Corey’s lawyer, Kise, wrote in a statement shared with the Tampa Bay Times. “Mr. Corey seeks, as he has sought in the past, to remove himself from the center of rampant and untoward speculation. Hopefully, disclosure of the actual facts will now permit him to do so, and to move forward with his life and career.”