Politics

Despite Campaign Finance Issues, Rep.-elect Ross Spano Staffs Capitol Hill Office

Former longtime staffer to Rep. John Culberson will fill role of chief of staff

Rep.-elect Ross Spano, R-Fla., announced his new staff today. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Florida Rep.-elect Ross Spano announced his senior staff Thursday, quieting concerns that the freshman Republican would not be able to fill his office amid looming legal questions about his campaign financing and reports that job candidates have been alarmed by the role of a controversial donor in the hiring process.

Spano faces bipartisan calls for inquiries by the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee into how he funded his campaign to replace Rep. Dennis A. Ross, who retired, in the 15th District.

Spano acknowledged in a letter to federal regulators in November he might have violated campaign finance rules against straw donations by taking out $180,000 in loans from two benefactors and directing approximately the same amount to his campaign.

But three staffers, including two with Florida connections, have signed on to work with the incoming congressman.

Jamie Robinette, formerly a longtime staffer to Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, has assumed the role of chief of staff.

Culberson lost reelection in the 7th District to Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher last month.

Like Spano, Culberson faced questions about possible ethical breaches in his personal finances — he allegedly devoted $17,000 in campaign funds to Civil War memorabilia, and purchased stock in the small Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics on the advice of fellow GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who faces insider trading charges stemming from the millions he and his family sank into company.

Culberson was also a senior House Republican appropriator.

Robinette “has nearly two decades of experience on Capitol Hill and has a strong background in appropriations and the legislative process,” according to a media release.

Her connection to Spano’s state is that her parents live in Florida, according to the release. 

“I’m looking forward to working with the Congressman-elect because I can tell he will be a fierce advocate for his constituents and for Conservative values,” Robinette said in an emailed statement. “We have a lot of work to do for Floridians in the 15th District and I’m looking forward to helping [Spano] accomplish his priorities on their behalf.”

Spano’s deputy chief of staff will be Scott Bedrosian, a nonprofit manager and a former United States Air Force lieutenant colonel. Filling the role of district director will be Blaine Gravitt, a former Ross staffer.

The announcement follows a Politico report that Cary Carreno — a central figure in the campaign finance allegations that have dogged Spano even before his first day in office — was interviewing candidates for the congressman’s Capitol Hill office, spooking away would-be staffers.

Carreno, a childhood friend and a businessman in utilities, lent Spano $75,000 on Oct. 29, eight days before the election. Spano lent his campaign $70,000 the same day.

In all, Carreno loaned Spano a total of $110,000 over the course of the campaign.

A spokesman for Spano said that while Carreno is often tapped for advice, he had no “formal involvement” in the hiring process.

“Ross often asks him for feedback, but in this situation there has been no formal involvement in hiring decisions,” Sandi Poreda said.

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