Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) is hoping to win the Democratic nomination to face Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in the upcoming 2022 midterm election, but Evan Power (R), Chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, argues that Fried must first respond to allegedly failing to disclose more than $400,000 in lobbying income. The allegation comes after Commissioner Fried amended financial disclosures, notifying that she had earned more money as a marijuana consultant than initially reported. This sparked Florida Rep. Joe Gruters (R) to call for a formal investigation. Commissioner Fried has not responded to the allegation, but Power questions the “exponential increase” as she looks to become Florida’s next Governor.
Three days prior to filing as a gubernatorial candidate, Fried filed an amendment regarding her 2018 disclosure of financial interests. It reveals that her income from Igniting Florida was $351,480. In 2020, Fried had disclosed through another amendment that she had earned $72,000 as first reported.
Commissioner Fried’s office released a statement to the Miami Herald, arguing that the most recent amendment is a result of an oversight that has been corrected.
Max Flugrath, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, commented that “when filing the form in 2018, Commissioner Fried provided her attorney with her salary for the 2018 calendar year, roughly six months of income.” Flugrath added that they “realized 2017 gross income, including all her business’ income and reimbursements, should have been reported, not just her salary.”
As a result, “when we were made aware of the filing error, we amended the forms to provide full transparency.”
Power, who filed the complaint, notes that Fried recently acquired a home that’s valued at more than $701, 000. It was reported on Fried’s 2018 and 2019 disclosure, but the complaint argues that there was “no dip or increase in her income reported to substantiate such a purchase.”
In turn, “if this was a ‘gift’ from a non-family member and was permissible, it would be required to be reported on a FORM 9, quarterly gift disclosure, and it was not.”
The complaint also includes other allegations, arguing that the Commissioner’s “house goods and personal effects” have exponentially increased since Fried assumed office.