COVID death undercuts Republican efforts for FEC disclosure, ‘election integrity’

A screenshot of the home page of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee

By Dan Christensen,

The Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee has a problem.

On Tuesday, it informed the Federal Elections Commission that it may be late with its required monthly financial filing because its member responsible for submitting reports electronically died suddenly on Saturday of COVID-19.

The late Gregg Prentice developed software that converted the committee’s QuickBooks data into information usable by the FEC. But “Gregg did not share the software and instructions with our officers,” the committee explained in its special filing with the FEC.

“We will have to enter the August data manually, and according to the information we have received from our FEC analyst, Scott Bennett, we may likely have to re-enter the data from our first 7 months of 2021. We will be struggling to get all of this entered in the proper format by our deadline on September 20, but we will try to do so with our best effort,” the filing says.

COVID also hits Prentice family

Prentice’s widow, Linda, and daughter, Tiffany, could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman at the Hillsborough Republican Executive Committee said both were ill with COVID-19.

Hillsborough Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk did not respond to voice messages or emails on Wednesday.

Gregg Prentice

Prentice, 61, who resided in Riverview, also served as head of the Hillsborough GOP’s Election Integrity Committee. It was an assignment that dovetailed with Prentice’s other post as president of the Florida nonprofit Election Integrity Florida, Inc., formed in 2017. Its mission: “to research and educate the public and officials on voting integrity issues, and to propose appropriate legislation to improve voting procedures.”

While active, EIF is not registered to solicit funds in Florida. It apparently also did not file annual Form 990s, used by the IRS to gather information about tax-exempt organizations.

Even before EIF was formed, Prentice would travel to speak to right-wing groups around the state. One example: a talk to Jacksonville’s First Coast Tea Party about preventing voter fraud in 2015.

Republicans have pushed hard for years to enact new voting restrictions into law, a push that took on renewed fervor in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiatedclaims that the 2020 election was stolen from him by fraud. It was those claims that fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Democrats have called GOP efforts to suppress voting as being aimed at decreasing turnout among non-white, often Democratic voters while boosting Republican chances to recover lost U.S. House and Senate seats as well as the White House.

In Florida, a crucial battleground state, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in May new restrictions that will reduce voter access to the polls. Among other things, the new law limits the use of drop boxes where absentee ballots can be deposited, as well as limiting who can collect and drop off ballots. Several lawsuits challenging the law are pending in courts.

In February, the Republican National Committee formed its own Committee on Election Integrity to push for “election transparency.” The committee is chaired by Florida Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, a state senator from Tampa.

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