December 2021 “Cha-Ching”

Santa arrived early for Brian Hamman

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the Pelican Preserve Country Club the evening of December 9, 2021.  The occasion was a fundraiser for County Commissioner Brian Hamman, aka our own “Captain Spin,” who is running for reelection.  The event was a Who’s Who of Lee County’s development world:  builders, realtors, land use attorneys, engineers, contractors, consultants and even a concrete manufacturer.  Hamman received checks from everyone ranging from Pulte to Lennar to London Bay Development to US Home, all big builders in the county.  And from the smaller ones as well: Lee Mar Building, Aubuchon Homes and Stevens Construction.  The event, underwritten by LSI, Retland Holdings and Randy Thibaut (of LSI fame), raised an astounding $60,700, a pretty good return on their in-kind donations of $2300 and free advertising on realtor websites.  We do not know if this amount is a record for our county, but it is pretty good for a candidate who today remains unopposed.

One has to ask:  how can a commissioner who accepts such a H.U.G.E amount of money from developers and their cronies represent you and me?  When one county commissioner was recently asked how to secure the vote of another commissioner by a group lobbying him, he suggested they approach developers who donated to this second commissioner.  Does this not reveal the depths into which our county politics has fallen?

Now to the numbers: 

Brian Hamman raised $121,624 in December, 2021.  Of this, 77% came from developers and developer-related interests (including $5000 from mining executives) – almost $8 of every $10 donated.     

Added to his take in November, Hamman is currently sitting on $172,494 (+$2300 in-kind donations); of this amount, an eye-popping 70.5% comes from developers and their buddies…and families.  Not to judge, but some might think this to be obscene.

Together with Cecil Pendergrass’s campaign donations of $165,933 to date, $343,027 has been raised for two part-time County Commission seats that each pay $100,289 annually.  What does this say about the power wielded by our county commissioners?

It must also be noted that Lee County Land Development Code §2-191 prohibits Lee citizens from communicating on zoning issues with county commissioners (who also – coincidentally — serve as zoning commissioners).  Should citizens do so, they will receive a letter from the county attorney’s office warning them of the criminal penalties for violating the law – up to a $500 fine and/or 60 days in the county jail.  To our knowledge, Lee is the only county in Florida that criminalizes such communications.  Yet – yet – it is perfectly fine for these developers to rub elbows with the county commissioners over pigs-in-a-blanket and scotch on the rocks.  Of course, business is never discussed.

This situation is exacerbated by the current and projected influx of new residents needing housing and other services.  Development in Lee is exploding and land use and zoning decisions being made today will have a far-reaching impact on our environment, health care, education, infrastructure and overall quality of life for decades.  How can we continue voting for elected leaders who put these special interests above the needs and concerns of residents?

Finally, the News-Press recently reported that the US EPA is looking into the Florida DEP’s permits granting the expansion of mining in Lee County.  Special concerns cited are the endangered panthers, increased traffic, and further damage to our water quality.  The businesses named in the article happen to have recently donated to our county commissioners up for reelection:

  • Troyer Brothers made two donations adding up to $2000 on November 19 to Pendergrass; on November 30, it donated another $2000 to Hamman, with Aaron Troyer kicking in yet another $1000.  As mentioned above, five self-identified mining executives donated $1000 each to Hamman on December 17.
  • Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold, the PR firm representing client Troyer Brothers, donated $1000 to Hamman on November 18 and $1000 to Pendergrass on November 19. 

Outrageous? We certainly think so.  And we will continue to watch and report as we connect the dots.

If you want to follow this saga yourself, go here to compare the names of campaign donors to the two campaigns and you will learn who really pulls the levers in this county. 

P.S.  Pass this on.

“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