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Former Florida State Senator Pleads Guilty in Ghost Candidate Investigation

Former NPA District 37 Florida Senate candidate Alex Rodriguez has pleaded guilty to two of four felony counts of violating election laws.

Rodriguez will receive one year of house arrest followed by two years of probation. He will not receive jail time and prosecutors are requiring him to testify against former State Senator Frank Artiles, who is facing four felony counts.

“The State alleges Artiles paid roughly $40,000 to Rodriguez to run as an NPA candidate in last November’s Miami Senate race, successfully drawing more than 6,000 votes from the Democratic incumbent of the same last name, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and handing the Republican candidate a victory,” WESH 2 News reported.

The scandal has been the talk of Florida politics for months.

Earlier this year, 11 of Florida’s Democratic U.S. House members sent a letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland saying that “a cloud of corruption hangs over Florida’s 2020 election cycle, which thus far, has received only a limited formal investigation.”

Their letter came after Artiles was arrested and charged with several felonies––making or receiving two or more excessive campaign contributions, conspiracy to make or receive two or more excessive campaign contributions, and false swearing regarding voting or elections––in relation to his decision to recruit Alexis “Alex” Rodríguez, who did not declare a party affiliation, by offering him $50,000 to run in the race.

The scheme worked: Rodriguez was able to siphon votes from incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez, who lost his state Senate seat to Republican challenger Ileana Garcia by just 32 votes in November.

“It is clear that the ultimate goal of the scheme outlined in legal records by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office could not have been accomplished without the coordinated support of two state-level political committees, The Truth and Our Florida, which were set up for the express purpose of raising the name identification of these ghost candidates, and to confuse voters with messaging that mirrored the Democratic campaigns,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. 

They argued that candidates that did not actively campaign for office were supported by an entity called Proclivity, whose $550,000 in untraceable contributions were accepted by two political committees.

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