Republican 13th Congressional District candidate David Jolly’s past as a Washington lobbyist was always a sure bet to be a bone of contention for rivals in the campaign for the late C.W. Bill Young’s open seat. Kathleen Peters is more than happy to oblige.
In a mailer sent to voters, Peters’ campaign declares, "Since 2007, David Jolly has given almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress!" It then adds "(But not a dime to Congressman Bill Young)" before launching into a number of bullet points about how Jolly has supported his rival party.
Lobbyists typically work both sides of the aisle in Congress depending on who can help their causes the most. We wanted to know if the mailer was telling the full story. Time to dig into the public record.
Mr. Jolly goes to Washington
The mailer doesn’t say it, but Dunedin native David Jolly worked for Young for several years. Jolly has played up his connection to Young, for whom he worked full time from 1995 to 2006. Jolly held various positions, with a brief break in 2001 when he took six months off to work at a Washington securities firm. In 2002, Young named Jolly his general counsel, a position Jolly held through 2006.
In 2007, Jolly began work as a lobbyist with Washington firm Van Scoyoc Associates. Eventually, he opened his own firm, Three Bridges Advisors. Jolly officially took his name off the Lobby Registry in order to run for the vacant House seat.
Peters has spent a lot of time making hay over Jolly’s past as a lobbyist, illustrating why it is so difficult for a lobbyist to run for office (leaving office to become a lobbyist is nowhere near as difficult -- or as uncommon).
Her mailer says, "In the past three election cycles, Washington Lobbyist David Jolly has made nearly $30,000 in personal contributions to the campaigns of Democrats in Congress -- liberals who have forced Obamacare on America and have fought responsible Republican policies."
The flier then lists 13 "Jolly Good" Democratic senators and representatives to whom Jolly has given campaign contributions. Among the baker’s dozen are Florida’s own Sen. Bill Nelson (who received $4,500 in direct contributions and through his PAC, Moving America Forward), Rep. Kathy Castor ($3,600) and former Rep. Allen Boyd ($7,500). Boyd, who was defeated for re-election by Republican Steve Southerland in 2010, is now a lobbyist for the Twenty-First Century Group.
The list also includes other Democrats from around the nation, including Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin ($1,000), late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye ($1,000), Maine Rep. Mike Michaud ($2,250) and former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. ($2,300), who was sentenced in August to 30 months in prison for wire and mail fraud for using campaign contributions for personal expenses.
The total listed on the mailing was $28,622, a number PolitiFact Florida confirmed through Federal Elections Commission filings from 2007 to 2013.
What the mailer doesn’t mention is that Jolly also gave thousands to Republicans. Some noteworthy recipients include Rep. Gus Bilirakis ($9,350), Rep. Dennis Ross ($4,104), Rep. Richard Nugent ($4,629), Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign ($2,300) and former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez ($1,500). Jolly also gave then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist $500 during his failed Senate bid.
In all, Jolly the lobbyist gave more than $34,000 to Republican politicians, candidates and organizations over the past six years.
Jolly has maintained that paying both Democrats and Republicans is the cost of doing business as a lobbyist. "My giving has always followed my personal relationships," he told PolitiFact Florida. He said in the case of Democrats, the contributions were for candidates and Congress members in races that weren’t close and had defense and national security priorities that matched his own.
It’s been noted in coverage of the 13th Congressional District race as well as the mailing in question that Jolly hadn’t given any money to Young, which Jolly confirms is true. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying, he said.
"I actually gave him money, and he did not accept it," Jolly added, repeating a favored anecdote about Young literally tearing up the check. He said he often worked to get money for Young by organizing host committees for fundraisers.
Peters’ mailer said Jolly "has given almost $30,000 to keep Democrats in Congress" in the form of campaign contributions.
The total on the flier, which we confirmed and Jolly did not dispute, is $28,622. That sounds like almost $30,000 to us. But Jolly has given even more to Republicans, and he was a staff member to Young for several years.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate this statement Mostly True.