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Ex-Bush aide cited on election charges

State regulators say Cory Tilley didn't file required reports saying who financed a group he formed to oppose video slots at racetracks.

By LUCY MORGAN
Published August 24, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - A committee formed by Cory Tilley, former communications director for Gov. Jeb Bush, has been charged with 13 counts of violating Florida elections law.

The charges, approved by the Florida Elections Commission, involve Floridians for Family Values, a group formed with mysterious financial backing in early 2003.

Tilley, a communications consultant, formed the group as a political committee and failed to file required reports documenting contributions and expenditures.

When reports were required in July 2003, Tilley tried to "decertify" the committee, contending it did not spend money to influence an election and should not have to file reports.

The committee faces a maximum fine of $13,000 if found guilty of all of the charges.

The group spent more than $225,000 opposing video lottery terminals at parimutuel racetracks. The money was used to send brochures to the constituents of some lawmakers while the Legislature was considering bills that would have legalized slot machines at the tracks.

The mailings suggested that lawmakers willing to vote for video lottery terminals wanted Las Vegas-style gambling and were willing to ignore the problems of drugs and crime that could be expected to accompany widespread gambling.

A complaint against Tilley and the group was filed last year by Dan Adkins, president of Hollywood Greyhound Track and head of a rival group called Floridians for a Level Playing Field - supporters of a constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines at racetracks in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Adkins contends that his own group has reported contributions and expenditures, complying with the law Tilley's group allegedly violated.

Elections Commission investigators subpoenaed bank records of Tilley's group and determined that its operating money came from wire transfers sent by Chesapeake Enterprises, a Washington lobbying firm that represents a number of Indian tribes on gaming issues.

The Florida legal work for Tilley's committee was handled by Greenberg & Traurig, attorneys for the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, Md., which is helping the Seminole Indians build hotels and casinos in Hollywood and Tampa.

Lobbyists for the Seminoles have denied bankrolling the committee.

Investigators for the Elections Commission said the original source of the money funneled through the lobbying group and Tilley's committee remains unknown.

Tilley, contacted Monday for comment, would not say where the money came from, but said he wants to cooperate with the commission and settle the case.

Tilley said "a clerical error" led to the charges.

"If they have determined mistakes were made and certain courses have to be taken, we regret that and will do our best to follow the law in the future," Tilley said.

Where did the money come from?

"I'd rather not get into that," he added.

[Last modified August 24, 2004, 00:08:14]


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