Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who announced her campaign for governor on June 1, released the names of several new campaign hires this week.
Among those names was Aria Branch of the D.C.-based Perkins Coie law firm who joined the campaign as a legal adviser. Branch’s bio states she has represented clients before the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Congressional Ethics, and state ethics and campaign finance regulators.
Last week Tallahassee Reports reported that Fried’s political action committee, Florida Consumers First, spent approximately $25,000 in May on legal services with Perkins Coie just ahead of her campaign announcement.
Florida Consumers First Legal Expenses
Perkins Coie, LLP is an international law firm founded in 1912 and located in Seattle, Washington with 20 offices in the United States, China, and Taiwan. In addition to corporate representation, the firm has represented political clients Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
This is the same law firm hired by former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in response to a federal investigation into Gillum’s PAC Forward Florida. The PAC spent approximately $225,000 with the law firm. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the escalating legal bills reflected the costs of complying with a sprawling federal grand jury subpoena issued to Forward Florida in 2019.
Why did Fried’s PAC spend $25,000 on legal services with Perkins Coie? There are a number of possible answers. Here are three.
First, Ms. Branch has experience in challenging elections laws across the U.S. Fried could be planning a legal challenge to the elections bill signed into law by Governor DeSantis.
Second, Fried was just hit with a 23-page ethic complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Ms. Branch has experience in dealing with state ethics complaints and could have been hired to deal with Fried’s well publicized financial disclosure issues.
And finally, as mentioned above, Perkin Coie was previously involved with work related to a federal grand jury subpoena issued to Gillum’s PAC, Forward Florida. There is some thought that Fried’s legal bills could deal with issues related to the federal investigation into Joel Greenberg and Matt Gaetz.
Fried’s ties to Gaetz have been addressed previously and she was a marijuana lobbyist during the time covered by the investigation.
Of course the best way to find out what the May expenses were allocated for is to ask Nikki Fried. Maybe a state-wide reporter will pop the question when given the chance.