July 2021 “Cha-Ching”

Here we go again —

Here we go again — the same old, same old.  Cecil Pendergrass, off on a 5-week hiatus during the pandemic, raised $7,775 in July, for a grand total of $140,283 for his reelection war chest when he doesn’t yet have an opponent.

And again we ask the question:  what do the developer-related interests think they are getting when they donate to a Pendergrass campaign?

Of this month’s $500+ donations (there were 7), 4 were from developer-related interests ($4,000), one from the hospitality sector ($1,000) and another from a county vendor ($1,000), for a total of $6,000 in special interest dollars for the month.  Cecil’s campaign has now received 60% of its contributions from development-related interests donating $500+.

Of course, the commissioner has the option of not accepting money from special interests and without an opponent, one can only guess what these businesses who go before our commissioners are thinking.  This commissioner has said in the past, as he undoubtedly will in the future, that he is never influenced by the donations he receives.  Hmmm.

We are particularly mindful of how the huge influx of population  will continue to impact our community and how our county commissioners, who also serve as zoning commissioners, will guide development as we move forward.  This is one reason we are watching carefully and tracking donations of developer-related interests to connect the dots.

Citizens have little opportunity to provide input into zoning/land use decision-making and dealing with the zoning commission (the county commissioners in another role) can be perilous.  In Lee County, it is a criminal violation for citizens to communicate in any form with the commissioners (called ex parte communications) regarding a land use or zoning decision.  Penalties assessed can be a $500 fine and/or up to 60 days in the county jail.  Residents opposing zoning/land use decisions that potentially impact them must first testify in front of the Lee County Hearing Examiner (for no more than 3 minutes and are subject to often-intimidating cross-examination by developers’ lawyers) if they want to speak before the commissioners at a zoning hearing, which, to no one’s surprise, often means absences from work in a losing cause.  Of course, residents can always get their faces in front of a commissioner by paying their way into his fundraiser.   So again we ask the question:  what do all these developer-related interests think they are getting when they donate to a Pendergrass campaign in which there isn’t even an opponent?

We urge you to familiarize yourself with the county candidates’ campaign reports filed with the Supervisor of Elections office.  Go to Lee.vote and click on “Campaign Reports” then “Campaign Finance Reports.”

“Cha-ching” brings you monthly info and analysis of campaign financing trends in our county political races.  ALL information we report is publicly available and donors’ names can be found at http://www.lee.vote/Campaign-Reports/Campaign-Finance-Reports.