NAPLES — The Naples Tea Party presents themselves as stewards of good government, but one Naples man says the organization is not living up to the claim.
Naples resident John Lundin has filed a complaint against the Naples Tea Party to the Florida Elections Commission, mailing it Monday to the Commission’s offices in Tallahassee.
In the complaint, he argued that the Naples Tea Party is in violation of the Florida Division of Elections laws for not filing as a political committee.
“They act as a political committee. They are a partisan political group against (President Barack) Obama and the Democrats,” he said. “They totally have the right to do it, but they are a political committee by definition by the state of Florida. And they need to file as such.”
The Florida Division of Elections states on it’s Web site: “A combination of two or more individuals (including organizations) must file as a committee and submit campaign reports when during a calendar year, in access of $500 aggregate, they:
■ Accept contributions or make expenditures to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate or issue;
■ Contribute to any candidate, committee or political party; or
■ Sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment by initiative and intend to seek signatures of registered electors."
“The Naples Tea Party is in violation because their stated partisan purpose is to defeat the political agenda of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party,” Lundin argued in his complaint.
Lundin said the Naples Tea Party is in violation for sponsoring a fundraiser Thursday, March 4, for Republican candidate Allen West, who is running for the Florida House of Representatives in District 22.
“The Naples Tea Party is in violation for requesting campaign donation of Section 106.011(11), F.S., for requesting campaign donation of $25 - $250 for Republican partisan candidate Allen West with expressed purpose of defeating Democratic incumbent Ron Klein,” Lundin wrote in his complaint. “The Naples Tea Party sponsored numerous events in 2009. They sponsored an event on February 6, 2001 [sic] in Naples at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Pine Ridge where they accepted in kind contributions of food, signs, printed materials, booth, trailer and sound system over the $500.”
Barry Willoughby, organizer for the Naples Tea Party, said he was unaware of the complaint Monday evening.
"I don't know Mr. Lundin .... have never met him and have no knowledge of a complaint filed against the Naples Tea Party other than many progressive socialists don't like us," he said in an e-mail.
Lundin, who held a counter event to the Feb. 6 protest on U.S. 41 and Pine Ridge Road, said he organized his counter-protest as a member of the Collier County Democratic Club.
“As a political committee, we have to file reports every three months,” he said. “That way, people know where the money is coming from that is being used in politics.”
Dave Carpenter, qualifying officer for the Collier County Supervisor of Elections, said a complaint of that nature would be filed with the Florida Elections Commission and remain confidential.
“If a complaint was filed the Naples Tea Party would be informed within five days of the filing,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We usually hear about complaints during the investigative process. An investigator for the FEC will contact us and ask us for certified copies of any filings.’
Carpenter said his office had not heard of a complaint as of Monday, but that doesn’t mean one hasn’t been filed. He added that the Supervisor of Elections Office has never had any requests from the Tea Party regarding their activities or filings they might have to make.
Should the Florida Elections Commission finds Lundin’s complaints valid, it can impose civil penalties in the form of fines not to exceed $1,000 per count.