Florida Politics

Software snafu causes Alan Grayson’s Senate campaign to report 2,300 donations from Chicago retiree

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, speaks in October in Tallahassee during the AP Florida Legislative Planning Session for 2016. Grayson is running against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for the Democratic primary in the race for U.S. Senate in 2016.
U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, speaks in October in Tallahassee during the AP Florida Legislative Planning Session for 2016. Grayson is running against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for the Democratic primary in the race for U.S. Senate in 2016. wmichot@miamiherald.com

Jacqueline Kirley vaguely remembered the name Alan Grayson. The retired Chicago teacher had no reason to know or care until this week that the Orlando congressman is running to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate in a competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

But because of a fluke software glitch, Kirley likely won’t ever forget Grayson again.

Her name appeared nearly 2,300 times in the Democrat’s most recent campaign finance report, filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this month. The lengthy disclosure claimed Kirley gave Grayson altogether $37,600 in varying increments — $1, $5, $20.16, $50, $100, and so on — all on July 15, according to a Herald/Times analysis of the quarterly report.

It’s not uncommon for the same donor to contribute more than once to a campaign, but 2,300 times — on the same day, no less — is unrealistically frequent.

Kirley said she didn’t know of the reported contributions in her name until a Herald/Times reporter called her Wednesday to ask her about what Grayson’s campaign ultimately explained was a snafu after upgrading its reporting software.

Kirley said she didn’t donate to Grayson this year and even double-checked her bank and credit card accounts to be sure. She said she found nothing to suggest she made any donations, even accidentally — nor was their any deposit for $20,080, which Grayson’s report indicated was refunded to Kirley for exceeding federal campaign limits.

Grayson campaign spokesman Kevin Franck said Thursday that when the campaign recently upgraded its reporting software, Kirley’s donor identification number was somehow linked to the one for Act Blue, a non-profit political action committee that acts as a conduit to help Democratic candidates nationwide raise money.

“For some reason, the system thought Mrs. Kirley and Act Blue were the same,” Franck said, and the campaign’s official report printed Kirley’s name instead of the true donors who contributed through Act Blue fundraising efforts.

Franck said he couldn’t say whether the campaign was aware of the problem before the Herald/Times asked about it, but “we’re certainly aware of it now, and we’ll have it fixed as soon as possible.”

Franck said Grayson called and emailed Kirley personally to apologize and explain the situation. She could not be reached for additional comment Thursday afternoon.

The campaign is already working to file an amended report that will replace Kirley’s name with the correct donors, Franck said. The reported refund check to Kirley was never sent, and that figure will be corrected also.

“It was a little harder to spot [the donations in Kirley’s name] because we have so many small-number donations,” Franck said. “It just seems to be a very weird, weird software glitch.”

When Grayson’s campaign released its quarterly fundraising figures two weeks ago, the campaign said it had received “more than 18,000 contributions from about 10,900 individuals.” Almost half of the $643,000 that Grayson reported earning from donors between July and September came from people who gave less than $200. Under FEC rules, campaigns don’t have to itemize such nominal donations.

It was likely that type of contribution that got Kirley into Grayson’s campaign database in the first place, though.

She made a small donation to Grayson’s first House campaign back in 2008 through a MoveOn.org fundraising pitch, Franck said. It doesn’t show up in the FEC’s itemized database online.

Kirley said late Wednesday she looked up Grayson online after initially speaking to the Herald/Times and recalled a few years ago receiving emails about how to help Democratic candidates win congressional seats, which might have included Grayson.

“None of these candidates were in Illinois. And it’s quite possible I contributed to Grayson, maybe because I thought he had the best chance of winning and getting another Democratic seat,” Kirley said, adding that she makes such donations “very, very rarely.”

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