Did Bloomberg Commit A Crime In Paying Off The Debts Of Black and Hispanic Former Felons To Allow Them To Vote?

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg has pledged to pour $100 million dollars in Florida alone to elect Joe Biden as part of his earlier pledge to pump hundreds of millions into the election.  The role of billionaires like Bloomberg and Sheldon Adelson in pouring hundreds of millions into the election for each side remains controversial, though many past critics of such windfall campaign financing are now demanding more support.  Bloomberg however is now under fire for pledging to pay off the debts of Black and Hispanic former felons to allow them to vote. The Washington Post reported that the funding of only Black and Hispanic former felons was due in part to the fact that they are more likely to vote for Biden.  That effort has led to allegations that Bloomberg may himself be committing a felony under Florida election laws. Much of this controversy is focused on the reporting of the Washington Post and an alleged Bloomberg memo. The money is actually distributed by a Florida organization committed to restoring voting rights for former felons.

Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 restoring the right for felons to vote, except those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses. This right was later conditioned on the payment of all fees, fines, and restitution that were part of their sentence. The right to restrict such voting was uphold by the Eleventh Circuit and that order was left in place in June by the United States Supreme Court over the dissent of Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Bloomberg is now moving to pay off those debts for nearly 32,000 Black and Hispanic convicted felons. Notably, while defending this effort as simply restoring the right to vote for felons, Bloomberg will only do that for Black and Hispanic voters. A Bloomberg memo first reported by the Washington Post read: “We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined.” As a result, Bloomberg is only clearing the way for Black and Hispanic voters because they are more likely to vote for Biden. Thus, those former felons who might vote for Trump are intentionally left disenfranchised by Bloomberg.

That raw political calculation has led some to raise the possible violation of Florida law.  On Fox, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), stated that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told him that there might be a criminal investigation of Bloomberg.  As an initial matter, such discussion of a possible criminal investigation of Bloomberg by Moody would in my view be highly inappropriate.

Gaetz stated “[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.”

That is not entirely accurate. Such an investigation would be based on Section 104.061:

104.061 Corruptly influencing voting.

(1) Whoever by bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, attempts to influence, deceive, or deter any elector in voting or interferes with him or her in the free exercise of the elector’s right to vote at any election commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084 for the first conviction, and a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, for any subsequent conviction.
(2) No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person’s or another’s vote or to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. However, this subsection shall not apply to the serving of food to be consumed at a political rally or meeting or to any item of nominal value which is used as a political advertisement, including a campaign message designed to be worn by a person.
Section 1 refers to “bribery, menace, threat, or other corruption whatsoever, either directly or indirectly” as the means for influencing the votes. Paying the debt of former felons is a lawful action and would not satisfy any of those criteria.  “Corruption” is not a colloquial but a legal term. It must refer to a clear nexus of securing unlawful derived benefits. The term is most often used in public corruption cases, but the Supreme Court has routinely rejected broad interpretations of this term (something that I discussed in the Trump impeachment). See McNally v. United States, Skilling v. United States, McCormick v. United States, and McDonnell v. United States.
That leaves Section 2.  That provision can be broken into two parts. First, there is the language “directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person’s or another’s vote.”  Bloomberg is not securing a commitment of how these individuals would vote. It is true that they are assuming that Black and Hispanic ex-felons will vote for Biden but, unless Bloomberg or the Florida Rights and Restoration Coalition have expressly made such a quid pro quo with the beneficiaries, there is no purchase of a vote.
The second part of that provision allows a charge for any effort “to corruptly influence that person or another in casting his or her vote.” This language however is narrowly construed in criminal cases.  It is not a “corrupt” purpose to clear the way for voting. 
The memo (and the racial exclusion of other beneficiaries) does make these determinations more difficult since it undermines the public claim that Bloomberg was simply trying to restoring voting rights. However, they would need something more concrete to establish a corrupt purpose or a quid pro quo.
Of course, the racial exclusion of other votes and the memo could justify a criminal investigation shortly before the election.  That would allow Florida investigators to seize material and interview staff members. Even if a basis for a criminal charge is not found, the memo destroys the high ground for Bloomberg in defending the right to vote for some, but not all, former felons.

186 thoughts on “Did Bloomberg Commit A Crime In Paying Off The Debts Of Black and Hispanic Former Felons To Allow Them To Vote?”

  1. Did I read this right. I understood he paid of felons’ fines. But this says “black and hispanic.” Am I to understand he ONLY paid off black and hispanic felon votes?

    WOW

    ANTI-WHITE RACIST MIKE BLOOMBERG, CENTI BILLIONAIRE, HATES WHITE PEOPLE & IS TRYING TO BUY FLORIDA ELECTION

    BRING HIM TO JUSTICE

  2. Democrats fancy vote buying and stuffing the ballot boxes are just their prerogative, because their definition of ‘democracy’ is that ‘Democrats Win’.

    1. I’m a Democrat. I don’t support vote buying or stuffing ballot boxes. I also don’t support voter suppression, as occurs when politicians take legitimate voters off the voting rolls. Do you object to voter suppression?

  3. In my youth felons were barred from voting. As a child I asked “Why?” It was explained to me as a matter of judgement.
    Committing a felony is a very serious error of judgement. Our representatives should be chosen by people with good judgement.

    Today we say that if they’re reformed we pretend it never happened. If it was a one-time error — being human, after all — it is forgiven if it has become a lesson in life learned.

    ____ random thought _______
    Sugar Daddies and Pimps pay the fines of their girls.

    1. No one is pretending that they didn’t commit a crime. But they served their time, and they’ve completed their probation. There is no reason to continue to disenfranchise them. If we do not consider a crime serious enough to require life in prison, then it’s not serious enough to require permanent disenfranchisement.

      Personally, I think the only crimes that should lead to disenfranchisement are voter fraud and voter suppression.

  4. it’s just awful when one multi billionaire steps up and tries to remedy the efforts of other billionaires to institute poll taxes in the modern age!!! Bahahahahaha.

  5. Whats not being discussed is also the payment of these fines, also becomes a taxable event for the falons. What’s going to happen when these guys get a bill from the IRS, and now has to pay the taxes on the Bloomie gift? Try getting a job, buying a house, or applying for a passport/visa…Bloomie, Michael Jordan and LeBron are some of the people funding this gift, they aren’t helping anyone.

    1. The money goes to a non-profit, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (https://floridarrc.com/), not directly to any citizen. Why do you think that Florida’s tax law considers this a taxable gift from the non-profit to the citizen?

      1. Not a taxable gift. But it is taxable income.

        You say, oh, it’s not income, it’s a gift!

        That’s what David Duke said. And he went to jail

        https://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/19/us/david-duke-pleads-guilty-to-tax-charge-and-fraud.html

        such causes of action provide a fertile field for politically motivated prosecutions

        donor fraud can mean wire fraud, too.. see the charges against Steve Bannon

        clever prosecutors can cook up all kinds of interesting ideas

        1. Kurtz, how is it income for the ex-felon if the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition pays the money directly to the state?

          1. Relief of a legal obligation can be income. https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431

            the question is whether it was a bona fide gift or not. See, in david duke’s case, he had good arguments that the money people were sending him were gifts. just like today, when somebody is giving money on patreon or paypal to some writer, is it a gift or income? usually the people collecting they money call it it a gift and dont report, but, when David Duke did something like that, he got in a lot of trouble.

            the prosecutor did not care about his arguments.

            so, you get the idea.

            1. Duke falsely claimed to have made less than $19K in income, when his income was really more than $65K. We’re talking about amounts under $1500 here. And we’re not talking about a situation in which “debt is canceled, forgiven, or discharged for less than the amount [owed],” so your link doesn’t apply. We’re talking about the debt being paid in full by a non-profit.

  6. If any of these people were caught in person, on video, with witnesses do you really think they would be prosecuted? Use the Hillary defense “if I could back, I would do it differently”, every criminal should use this as a defense. Instead of taking the 5th, say “I take the Hillary”.

  7. Does it actually matter if Bloomberg committed a crime? I mean…it’s not like Democrats are required to follow the law, like the rest of us lowly peons.

  8. I am sure that Professor Turley knows way more of the Law than I do but maybe he is setting a test to see if we can read and understand the statute.
    Doesn’t the intention to influence itself violate section 2? Nothing in the text says there must be agreement or conspiracy. It simply proscribes offering a thing of value with the intent to buy the vote.
    Is the much wiser than I professor saying that I can give money to someone, take them to register to vote, give them campaign materials, and as long as there is no agreement to buy or sell the vote, no crime has been committed?

    1. 1. Turley is as much of the problem in our current sordid culture as NYTimes and Breibart.
      2. We come here to play in his sandbox but otherwise Turley’s sins of commission and omission overflow not that he cares. See #1.

    2. It seems to me Bloomberg himself stated his “intent”. From the memo: “We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined.” He intends to bolster the voting block for Biden. Not just ‘voters’ in general…but a specific block of voters. For Biden. So that is his intent. He then intends to pay off whatever fines or fees these people have in order for them to vote. He has made a public statement, he is a powerful public figure. A felon who receives this money now knows what Mr. Bloomberg’s desires are. This seems pretty cut and dry to me.
      Now, whether or not any legal action is brought against him remains to be seen. I doubt it will go anywhere, as is so typical.

  9. Attached to this whole picture, right up front, is the Republican perversion of the law Floridians passed allowing ex-cons to have the right to vote. The monies owed in fines and/or court costs are categorically the same as parking tickets, speeding tickets, or any other monetary penalty a person receives for breaking the law. Yet Florida Republicans interjected on a law passed legally through the vote, that there is a difference. Out of nowhere and more blatantly than anything Bloomberg has done, Republicans in Florida interceded to limit potential Democrats from voting. The Republican hypocrisy was the same as what McConnell and now Romney spewed regarding the 9th Supreme Court Justice issue; if it’s bad for us, we will do whatever we can to oppose it and if it’s good for us we will do whatever we can to get it done. There is no difference, except that Bloomberg told it like it is, more African Americans and Hispanics likely to vote Democrat and left out the hypocrisy. So, Turley, you Trump-Republican mouth piece, when will you lay out the story in total?

    Ponder a bit that on top of the Republicans in Florida making voting rights for ex convicts dependent on their paying fines and court costs, the courts and other administrative parts of the Republican run government are delaying ad infinitum the recording of those ex convicts paying their debts. That is to say that even if an ex convict pays the ransom, he or she don’t get to vote until they spend more money and time fighting the roadblocks put up by the Republicans, all with the express interest of keeping potential Democrats out of the mix.

    Turley, your next appointment will be on Foxnews.

    1. Here’s the thing: Florida’s legislature passes laws. You don’t like the laws they pass, or the administrative rules they attach? Fine. Move to Florida, establish residency, and advocate for representation and policies you like. It may surprise you to learn there are a great many people who have a problem extending the franchise to felons.

      1. The issue here isn’t about representation but about implementation. The people of Florida, in a solid majority, voted to allow ex convicts to have the right to vote. I live in Florida. I voted for ex convicts to have the right to vote. My vote was nullified by the Republican dominated legislature, not the people. Then the Republican administration interceded and made it next to impossible by attaching a condition, that was not on the referendum, that fines and court costs must be paid. Then on top of that, when some ex convicts paid the costs, the ‘paperwork’ delayed and continues to delay the registering of all this hypocritical machination; so that even after fully qualifying, the individual could not vote. Funny how that never makes it into Turley’s blog or the Foxnews.

      2. That “there are a great many people who have a problem extending the franchise to felons” does not imply that that number includes a majority of Floridians. Floridians already voted to reenfranchise felons who’ve completed their sentences and probation: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.” Floridians did not choose to require people to pay off all fines/fees/restitution owed prior to being reenfranchised.

        1. Thank you for arguing my point. The broader question is, ‘Why doesn’t Turley weigh in on this Republican travesty?’. Turley puts himself forth as an objective legal source, teacher, authority, etc. Yet his bent is towards the Republican Party and Trump, by a vast degree. Every once in a while he throws a bone to the center and admonishes some minor right wing indiscretion but on a regular basis, Turley mines Foxnews for stance and then cherry picks WAPO and the NYTimes for mistakes. Maybe he’s after a medal of freedom like Limbaugh.

  10. I think Mike – who was my favorite candidate this year – has a problem. If this were a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory effort at enfranchisement, no, but all the circumstantial evidence points to this being one party’s effort to literally buy votes. There’s no explicit quid pro quo because the payment goes to a 3d party. But I bet if they investigate they will find a lot of messaging going on about what these voters are expected to do. I think there’s certainly grounds to investigate, and an indictment would not surprise me.

  11. The atty general who says “crime” needs to be prosecuted himself.
    (Music)
    Went in dumb. Come out dumb too. Hustling round Miami in his alligator shoes. He’s keeping black felons down.
    He’s a redneck.
    Redneck.
    He don’t know his arse from a hole in the ground.
    Etc

  12. Hey, if the Democrats let the dead vote, and illegal aliens, why not ex-felons??? But the important thing to note is that the Democrats know well the folks most likely to vote for them – fellow criminals! Robbers, rapists, drug dealers, murderers, etc. Yep, that oughta tell sane people something about the Democratic Party.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky, you are by far the best commenter on here. I rarely agree with you but your humor is priceless.

      Where do I send the check?

      1. Squeeky isn’t getting enough attention these days, so she posts anonymous comments and gives herself a pat on the back.

      2. Thanks whichever Anonymous you are! (There is a good Anonymous, and there is a Thoroughly Rotten, Stupid Anonymous, too.) But keep your money! I comment for free! I am not hurting for cash or anything like that. I just try in my own humble and self-effacing way to bring intelligence and wit into the conversation!

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

  13. Let’s look at swine JT logic. The state of Florida refusing to tell many felons how much they need to pay to vote again, perfectly fine, nothing here. Bloomberg paying off those debts, crime!

    Just admit you don’t want them to vote.

      1. There is no central system in FL that says how much FL felons owe, and it often isn’t easy to determine:

        “Many people …, don’t know how much they owe because of Florida’s “arcane” record-keeping system. … Jonathan Diaz, a voting rights attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, said the process to determine what people owe can be “impossible” to figure out, especially without a legal background. The problem is made worse, he said, by a lack of digitization, poor record-keeping, and the fact that information is kept county-by-county, instead of in one centralized, state database.”
        https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-voting-ex-felons-inaccurate-records/

        1. Indeed, if there was enough time to fight out this effort – one of many by the GOP to disenfranchise demographic groups who vote Democratic, and in this case in opposition to the clear spirit of a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which won easily – the legality of the state withholding a now established right based on information not summarized or verified is BS – legal jargon there – and impossible to enforce or comply with.

          1. Interesting as it appears that bythebook is one of the Anonymous commentators as well…same exact posting by Anonymous below.

            Is using more than one commentator name a way to make your argument look more stronger or popular?

        2. Indeed, if there was enough time to fight out this effort – one of many by the GOP to disenfranchise demographic groups who vote Democratic, and in this case in opposition to the clear spirit of a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which won easily – the legality of the state withholding a now established right based on information not summarized or verified is BS – legal jargon there – and impossible to enforce or comply with.

    1. Actuallly, Molly, I think paying people’s debts, so they can vote, is bribery. And since it includes 20,000 cases, could be a huge RICO case

  14. ‘Even if a basis for a criminal charge is not found, the memo destroys the high ground for Bloomberg in defending the right to vote for some, but not all, former felons.’

    That was the ‘high’ ground? Felons are not where they are for cutting class or stealing a candy bar. Pretty clear you’ve never set foot in a maximum security facility and actually talked with the inmates at length, JT. A whole lot of them are pretty beyond help (they also lie like mofos, some intentionally, the sociopaths, some not, the psychotic delusionals) and if someone offered me a way back on the street to reengage in mayhem in that situation with a vote I don’t even actually care about, it would he a done deal. The dems, in their infinite lack of ethics or compassion are well aware of this fact.

  15. “Bloomberg is now moving to pay off those debts for nearly 32,000 Black and Hispanic convicted felons.”

    He helped raise money to pay off those debts, but as far as I know, the organization that the money is going to, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (https://floridarrc.com/) does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. The effort focuses on felons who owe less than $1500. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black and Hispanic ex-felons are overrepresented in that group, but that’s different than exclusively paying off the debts of Black and Hispanic ex-felons.

    If you’re going to claim that “Bloomberg is only clearing the way for Black and Hispanic voters,” provide evidence for it. So far, the reporting on it that I’ve read doesn’t provide evidence either.

  16. BLOOMBERG GOT CAUGHT and he provides the Hard Evidence of the Crime/Breaking the Law and Florida will go hard on Bloomberg. Once again Bloomberg got bad advise. HE paid his consults and etc. a high price when he ran for the Dem nomination and got zero return and now he will get zero return for this latest attempt. If the funds have been distributed to the organzation to pay the fines, guess what they will be FROZEN by the State of Florida pending an investigation and they will go after the organization in Florida, Mike Bloomberg and his friends. LOCK HIM UP even its for a week, Mike would look good in Orange Jump Suit eating ham sandwiches and in general population of the jails of Florida.

  17. If it were a crime, would it still be a crime if instead of giving them the money to pay off thier fine, he hired them so they would earn enough to pay off the fine? Or is the scienter too obvious?

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