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Electric campaign finance reports yield two surprises

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of April 11, 2013)

The political action committee that put up the signs and paid for the newspaper ads and mailers urging Vero residents to vote “Yes” on the sale of Vero electric to Florida Power & Light received modest donations from 64 individuals and businesses, and a big contribution from FPL of $92,000, according to campaign organizers.

The political action committee that put up the signs and paid for the newspaper ads urging residents to vote “No” got its largest contributions from the Teamsters Union, which represents power plant workers and other city employees, and Mark Schumann, a former Scripps employee who at the time he made the donation was posing as “editor” of a news blog.

Three days after Schumann made his $2,000 contribution – more than any other individual gave to the vote “No” campaign – he attacked Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers publisher Bob Brunjes on his blog, blaming termination of his employment with Scripps niche publications on Brunjes trying to bar him from repeatedly writing stories opposing the sale of Vero electric.

Neither in his blog posting nor subsequently did Schumann disclose his own financial involvement in the electric battle, a clear violation of all journalism codes of ethics. 

The Scripps Code of Ethics provides that journalists “must not participate in political fund-raising, political organizing or other activities designed to enhance a candidate, political party or political-interest organization.  They must not make political contributions to political campaigns or engage in other such activity that might associate their names with a political candidate or political cause.”

Campaign finance reports for the March 12 referendum were not due until 5 p.m. Wednesday, but Glenn Heran, who put together the committee Citizens for a Brighter Future in 2011,told Vero Beach 32963 his organization raised $100,345, of which $92,000 came from FPL with $8,345 coming in mostly $25 to $100 donations from local residents.

Of that, the group spent $62,000, a full $55,000 of which was paid to Cornerstone Solutions for political communications services. As of Monday, Citizens for a Brighter Future had $39,000 in cash remaining.

Why so much money from FPL?

“We saw fear mongering by the anti-sale crowd that Vero would lose its police force and even its beaches.  All absurd arguments but I was not going to allow misinformation to win the day,” Heran said.

Meanwhile, in its report, Voices of Vero, which was organized by former City Attorney Charlie Vitunac to press for a “No” vote, said it had raised and spent just over $16,000 with $5,000 of that coming from the Teamsters Union, which represents most Vero Beach city employees.