Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum received a ticket to the Broadway show "Hamilton" from a group that included an undercover FBI agent, according to text and email records released on Tuesday under subpoena by the lawyer for a former Florida lobbyist.
The revelation is the latest development regarding a federal investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee, Florida, where Gillum has been mayor since 2014.The records, which were subpoenaed by the state ethics commissions last week according to the Tampa Bay Times, cast doubt on the explanation from Gillum's campaign that the mayor received the ticket from his brother Marcus.
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The FBI probe centers on whether developers successfully influenced city projects. At one point in the probe, an undercover agent successfully infiltrated Gillum's inner circle. No one has been charged with any wrongdoing.
Gillum has repeatedly said the FBI told him he is not a focus of the investigation. But his attendance at a Broadway show with lobbyist and longtime friend Adam Corey, along with his brother and the federal agent, who went by Mike Miller, has been used by political opponents to suggest Gillum is potentially under more direct scrutiny.
At issue is a 2016 trip to New York, where the group saw the hit musical "Hamilton." Gillum's campaign has said his brother was the source for his ticket. But within the nearly 150 pages of records provided on Tuesday by Corey to ethics officials, text messages between Gillum and Corey present a murkier picture.
In a message from August 8, 2016, Corey texts Gillum saying, "Mike Miller and the crew have tickets for us for Hamilton tonight at 8pm," then asks if Gillum can join them and notes: "I think your brother has already arrived by the way."
Gillum's campaign pushed back against any implication that he had misled the public, saying that his brother, the previously cited source of the ticket, was part of the "crew" cited in the text.
"These records vindicate and add more evidence that at every turn I was paying my own way or was with my family, for all trips, including picking up tickets from my brother, Marcus, who was with a group of his own friends," the campaign said in a statement.
In a Facebook Live video Tuesday night, Gillum dismissed the revelations as "distractions" from his campaign message.
"What I wanted to make sure that folks understood was that these messages only confirm what we have said all along," he said. "We did go to see 'Hamilton.' I did get my ticket for 'Hamilton' from my brother. At the time we believed that they were reserved by friends of Adam's, Mike Miller."
"When I got there after work -- got my ticket, went in and saw it, assumed my brother paid for it and so far as I know that was the deal," he continued.
Gillum's Republican opponent Ron DeSantis commented on the news while speaking in Miami.
"Andrew's running on impeaching Trump. OK, I mean, I don't know what for," he said. "Trump did not receive a free Hamilton ticket from an undercover FBI agent."
In their CNN debate Sunday, DeSantis questioned Gillum about the source of the tickets and who footed the bill.
"Did you pay for the 'Hamilton' ticket, or did the undercover FBI agent pay for the 'Hamilton' ticket?" DeSantis asked.
Gillum never directly answered, but insisted he had -- in general terms -- always paid his own way during his political career.
"We all have friends that sometimes let us down," Gillum said of Corey, while also suggesting DeSantis was using the issue as a not-so-subtle way of trying to provoke a racial backlash in a campaign that could end with the election of Florida's first African American governor.
"I'm a hard working person," Gillum said. "I know that may not fit your description of what you think people like me do."