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    Fischer fined for campaign violations

    The District 52 state House candidate pays a total of $300 for language in two invitations that portrays her as the incumbent.

    By SHELBY OPPEL and ALICIA CALDWELL

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


    TALLAHASSEE -- State House candidate Margo Fischer has been fined for two "minor violations" of state election law by the Florida Elections Commission.

    The second violation became public Wednesday, 13 days before northeast St. Petersburg voters choose between Fischer, a Democrat, and her Republican opponent, incumbent state Rep. Frank Farkas, for the District 52 seat.

    Fischer has paid a total of $300 in fines to the commission for the violations, which were prompted by complaints Farkas filed in March and April. In both cases, Farkas charged that Fischer used misleading language in campaign literature that portrayed her as an incumbent.

    The commission ruled that Fischer committed "minor violations" of state election law in two invitations to campaign events. Fischer signed consent orders in which she did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed not to distribute similar literature again.

    Fischer said Wednesday that she declined to fight the allegations because it would have taken more time and effort than they deserved. The violations were simple mistakes not intended to mislead anyone, she said.

    "I think it's a waste of everyone's time, but I think it clearly demonstrates how Frank Farkas runs a campaign," Fischer said.

    Fischer's first fine, for $100, was for an invitation to a reception at her home sent to supporters in April. The invitation omitted the word "for" between Fischer's name and "Florida House of Representatives."

    Florida law requires a candidate who is not an incumbent to include "for" between her name and the office for which she is running so the advertisement does not imply she is the current office-holder.

    The omission was inadvertent, Fischer said. When composing the invitations on her home computer, she lost the word "for," she said.

    Fischer's second violation, with a $200 fine, was for an invitation sent to supporters last November.

    The invitation reads: "The event is a fundraiser for my reelection campaign for the Florida House of Representatives. The November 2000 election may seem a long way off but the time will go quickly, and it is not (too) soon to begin the work of regaining my legislative seat." The next sentence of the invitation refers to Farkas as "my opponent . . . an incumbent."

    Florida law prohibits a candidate who is not an incumbent from using the word "re-elect" in a political advertisement.

    Farkas said Wednesday that Fischer's violations continue a pattern she began in 1996, when the Florida Democratic Party distributed a campaign flier on her behalf that falsely appeared to have been mailed by the St. Petersburg Times.

    -- Information from Times files was used in this report.

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