Has CJ Lewis broken the law?

November 14, 2009

Former mayoral candidate C.J. Lewis may have violated Florida Elections laws with his recent mailing of 5,000 flyers to Pensacola voters regarding his stance against the new charter referendum.

Under Florida Elections Laws: “An independent expenditure means an expenditure made by a person for the purpose of expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate or the approval or rejection of an issue, which expenditure is not controlled by, coordinated with, or made upon consultation with, any candidate, political committee, or agent of such candidate or committee.”

According to Florida Statute 106.071 “Independent expenditures; electioneering communications; reports; disclaimers.—

“(2) Any political advertisement paid for by an independent expenditure shall prominently state “Paid political advertisement paid for by (Name and address of person paying for advertisement) independently of any (candidate or committee).

(4) Any person who fails to include the disclaimer prescribed in subsection (2) in any political advertisement that is required to contain such disclaimer commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”

As you can see, there is no such statement on Mr. Lewis’ mass mailing (see Lewis Flyer). He could be facing a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a year in prison and possibly a $1000 fine. I’m not sure if the fine is per flyer sent. Now maybe the proper disclaimers were added to some of the flyers.

In an email that Mr. Lewis sent out on the eve of Hurricane Ida making landfall, he clearly says that the flyers are from him:

From: Christopher J. Lewis
To: “Christopher J. Lewis”
Date: Monday, November 9, 2009, 10:06 PM

With Ida about to hit and a big consolidation commission tomorrow I think I’ve done what I can on the charter vote issue. I managed to get out nearly 5000 of these flyers by mail or hand-delivery, with some much needed help. Thanks you rebels!

The CRC process was so corrupted I don’t see how this matter ever got to a vote. No one on the council disputes what I’ve written and I do know they wish I’d go away. Maren DeWeese thinks I’ve blown a gasket over this issue and maybe I have. Few things are as important as “our” government. It’s still ours, by the way, even if the council pretends to not hear us every two weeks.

I think either form of government “could” potentially work but without anything written down by the Charter Review Commission to explain and justify, we really have no idea why they recommended what they did. Just because something feels good doesn’t make it good government. If our CRC had submitted a Final Report like they will soon do in Jacksonville, or did in Sacramento (see example at the link), we’d understand their intent. We’d all then have a common point of departure for a great public debate. Instead we have the present mess which grossly oversimplifies the issue down to “Change” versus “Status Quo.” http://www.cityofsacramento.org/charter/documents/CRC_Final_Report.pdf

In truth, we all should know we need to improve our government. When we figure out exactly what’s broken we can then come up with specific recommended changes. For the moment we don’t actually know. The CRC took some shortcuts and skipped over that phase, probably because the prevailing majority knew where they wanted to end up before they started out. They can say different but the written and video record proves otherwise. Some of the so-called “experts” who testified were even related by marriage, business relationship or personal friendship to people on the CRC.

As decision-making processes go it was a pretty sad example of how not to be fair and objective. The council was asleep at the wheel and let it all get out of hand. They then found themselves boxed into a corner being hammered by the not-so Independent News Weekly and Pensacola News Journal who urged them to bring this to a vote ASAP. They too readily caved to pressure and here we are.

If you know anyone in the city who would benefit from some factual information about the CRC’s “process,” please forward them my flyer. Other than Derek Cosson’s ProgressivePensacola.com no one will touch any of this information with a ten foot pole. Tell your friends about his website which plays it straight down the middle letting all sides vent. Finally, a shameless plug for Evergreen Print & Mail at 318 Beverley Parkway, 429-0700. If ever you want to self-fund your own neighborhood revolution, Ken Barzacchini is the guy to go see.


And while we know that Mr. Lewis opposes the proposed charter, we do not know if he is also a financial backer of No Boss Mayor, since they have not released any campaign finance reports since November 2.

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