Political Party/527

Florida Voters in Charge (FVIC)

Location:

Jacksonville Beach, FL

Formation:

2021

Type:

PAC

Treasurer:

Erika Alba

Florida Voters in Charge (FVIC) is a political action committee that aims to expand legalized gambling in Florida. Headquartered in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, it is the lobbying arm of gambling conglomerate Las Vegas Sands, from which it receives the bulk of its funding.

This group is the direct political opponent of Standing Up for Florida, a PAC sponsored by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is the only entity allowed to operate casinos in Florida as of 2022. FVIC received more than $75 million in funding, with $73 million coming from Las Vegas Sands. This made it the non-candidate PAC in Florida with the most revenue in 2021. [1]

Proposed Legislation

In 2022, Florida Voters in Charge was the proponent of two gambling-oriented ballot initiatives. The first, eventually known as the Florida Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative, would have allowed expansion of casino-style gambling into northern Florida, provided that the casinos were built 130 miles away from any Seminole Tribe-owned casino. The second initiative, supported by online betting firm Draft Kings, would have legalized online and venue-based sports gambling in Florida. The second initiative failed to gain traction and was dropped in January 2022. [2] [3]

FVIC’s primary opposition came from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, operating through its own Standing Up for Florida PAC, which spent more than $39 million in its fight against FVIC, buying television ads and accusing FVIC of improperly obtaining signatures. The Seminole-affiliated PAC also attempted to launch a petition that would give the tribe exclusivity over sports betting in Florida. FVIC was further hampered in its efforts to collect signatures by a 2019 amendment that made it illegal to incentivize signature collectors by paying them based on the number of signatures they acquired. [4]

Fraud Investigations and Lawsuits

In early 2022, six Florida county-level election supervisors alleged that petitions supporting Florida Voters in Charge’s initiative included potentially falsified signatures, including those of deceased signatories. In one example, a Marion County resident and his wife’s names appeared on the petition, although they hadn’t signed it. In another instance, the election supervisor recognized the name of a woman he personally knew to have Alzheimer’s disease. [5]

FVIC legal counsel Jim McKee responded saying that the accusations of fraud were driven by opponents of gambling expansion in Florida, and that Florida law required “all petitions gathered, even those known or suspected to be inaccurate” to be submitted to election administrators. McKee further stated, “We support, and even encourage, any allegations of circulators turning in fraudulent petitions being fully investigated and prosecuted.” [6]

On December 1, 2021, FVIC filed a lawsuit alleging that Standing Up for Florida and the Seminole Tribe had interfered with its signature-gathering efforts by paying its workers not to collect signatures. The lawsuit also alleged that “parties acting on behalf of the Seminole Tribe have engaged in concerted and aggressive efforts to harass and intimidate individuals who are exercising their legal right to obtain signatures.” This lawsuit was dropped without explanation the day before the February 1 petition deadline. [7]

Shortly after, FVIC filed suit requesting an extension of the signature deadline. This suit was dismissed, FVIC appealed, and then dropped the appeal just before it was set to be heard on April 7, 2022. A spokesperson for FVIC stated that although it believed it had submitted more than the required number of signatures to get its amendment on the ballot for November 2022, the obstacles going forward were insurmountable. She further stated that the PAC was “in the process of winding down,” but did not give any details about a possible resurgence in the 2024 election cycle. [8]

People

Erika Alba, treasurer of FVIC, is the director of public relations at the law firm Foley and Lardner LLP. She is also the former chair of Fighting for Florida’s Future, the political action committee associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). [9] ]In 2019, Alba was the subject of controversy when she allegedly gave executives at utility company Florida Power and Light legal advice on how to hide political donations from public scrutiny. [10]

References

  1. [1] Stralow, Karen. “Florida Voters in Charge Outraises Every Other Florida PAC with $75.6 Million.” Ballotpedia. April 15, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://news.ballotpedia.org/2022/04/15/florida-voters-in-charge-outraises-every-other-florida-pac-with-75-56-million/ ^
  2. Kam, Dara. “Las Vegas Sands Drops Bid for North Florida Casinos on 2022 Ballot.” Tampa Bay Times. April 1, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2022/04/01/las-vegas-sands-drops-bid-for-north-florida-casinos-on-2022-ballot/ ^
  3. Bauerlien, David. “Las Vegas Sands Readies Push for Casinos in North Florida and Potentially Jacksonville.” Florida Times-Union. July 15, 2021. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/2021/07/15/las-vegas-sands-prepares-ask-florida-voters-casino-expansion/7971662002/ ^
  4. Kam, Dara. “Las Vegas Sands Drops Bid for North Florida Casinos on 2022 Ballot.” Tampa Bay Times. April 1, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2022/04/01/las-vegas-sands-drops-bid-for-north-florida-casinos-on-2022-ballot/ ^
  5. McLaughlin, Tom. “Florida Voters In Charge Defends its Pro-Gambling Petition Effort after Being Investigated for Fraud.” NFW Daily News. January 28, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2022/01/28/pro-gambling-pac-defends-petition-effort-being-investigated-fraud/9253661002/ ^
  6. McLaughlin, Tom. “Florida Voters In Charge Defends its Pro-Gambling Petition Effort after Being Investigated for Fraud.” NFW Daily News. January 28, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.nwfdailynews.com/story/news/2022/01/28/pro-gambling-pac-defends-petition-effort-being-investigated-fraud/9253661002/ ^
  7. Saunders, Jim and Kam, Dara. “Supporters Looking to Expand Gambling in North Florida Drop Lawsuit.” Pensacola News Journal. February 1, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022.  https://www.pnj.com/story/news/politics/2022/02/01/florida-voters-charge-drop-north-florida-casino-petition-lawsuit/9300176002/ ^
  8. Kam, Dara. “Las Vegas Sands Drops Bid for North Florida Casinos on 2022 Ballot.” Tampa Bay Times. April 1, 2022. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida-politics/2022/04/01/las-vegas-sands-drops-bid-for-north-florida-casinos-on-2022-ballot/ ^
  9. Dixon, Matt. “Desantis-Aligned Super Pac Gets New Head as Gubernatorial Rumors Swirl.” Politico. July 25, 2017. Accessed May 16. 2022.  https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2017/07/25/desantis-aligned-super-pac-gets-familiar-new-head-as-gubernatorial-rumors-swirl-113600 ^
  10. Garcia, Jason and Martin, Annie. “Operative Pitched Secretive Political Spending Plan.” Orlando Sentinel. December 17, 2021. Accessed May 16, 2022. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/politics/os-ne-florida-power-and-light-matrix-dark-money-20211217-v64274eytjeb5hnstdognvqds4-story.html ^
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Florida Voters in Charge (FVIC)


Jacksonville Beach, FL