26 Jul 2023
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez received a $500,000 donation from an online flower shop that allegedly violated federal campaign financing laws, according to a complaint filed to the Federal Election Commission.
The 27-page complaint alleges “unknown persons” used PassionForest LLC, a less than year-old company that sells artificial flowers online, to conceal the true source of the contributions made to Suarez, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. The 45-year-old Republican mayor announced a long-shot presidential bid last month.
PassionForest operates mostly out of China, according to the complaint, suggesting “it may have been used to conceal illegal foreign national contributions.”
“PassionForest’s only known activity was selling artificial flowers on Amazon.com, supporting the conclusion that it could not have made a $500,000 contribution without someone else – the true contributor – providing it with funds for that purpose,” the Campaign Legal Center said in its complaint.
Suarez’s SOS America PAC received the $500,000 from PassionForest in October, according to fillings.
The mayor’s office referred calls to SOS America. In an email statement, the PAC said “the complaint makes no accusations whatsoever against SOS America PAC or the mayor. This is nothing more than a political attack and it will be seen for what it is.”
A contact address for PassionForest couldn’t be found. An Amazon page for a PassionForest store lists a Chinese address with no contact information.
Suarez had already been facing criticism for possible conflicts of interest related to outside jobs, just as his net worth more than doubled last year. A consulting gig for a real estate developer sparked multiple investigations, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. Suarez denies wrongdoing.
Other SOS America donors include Cantor Fitzgerald’s Howard Lutnik, who gave $1 million, and crypto firm Ripple Labs Inc., which donated $500,000. A different PAC supporting Suarez got $1 million from Citadel’s Ken Griffin.
SOS America has spent $1.7 million on cable, radio and digital ads backing Suarez, according to AdImpact. It’s due to report detailed information on its fundraising through the first six months of 2023 to the FEC on Monday.