TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A state ethics panel found probable cause Florida's agriculture commissioner violated the law by failing to initially disclose more than $400,000 in lobbying income while announcing a bid for governor.
The Florida Commission on Ethics announced the findings against Nikki Fried on Wednesday.
But a spokesman for Fried, who is a Democratic nominee for governor, called it nothing more than a political smear campaign.
"A disgraced Republican Party official filed a false and fraudulent ethics complaint against Commissioner Fried," spokesman Drew Godinich said in a statement. "Consistent with the administration's regular practice of feeding false information to its subordinate agencies, Commissioner Fried is being attacked for following the law and showing transparency, exactly the opposite of what Republican Ron DeSantis and his cohorts do every day."
Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, filed an ethics complaint in June after Fried amended her 2017 and 2018 disclosure of financial interests to show she earned more than what was previously disclosed.
Before becoming agriculture commissioner, Fried worked as a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry.
"The ethics commission should denounce this politically inspired nuisance complaint and hold this DeSantis operative accountable for misleading the public," Godinich continued. "Florida deserves real change and new voices, and that means passing real ethics reforms that are nonpartisan and will hold elected officials accountable for real wrongdoing -- like Ron DeSantis taking cash from foreign powers."
Godinich said Fried voluntarily amended the information after her accountant brought it to her attention. He said Fried intends to appeal the decision.
Fried joins former Gov. Charlie Crist, who won office as a Republican, became an independent and later became a member of the Democratic Party, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who was Crist's running mate in their failed 2014 gubernatorial bid, as one of several Democrats challenging DeSantis in 2022.