MANATEE -- With the primary election less than a month away, Republican state attorney candidates Ed Brodsky and Peter Lombardo are trading barbs over a new controversial TV ad.
Lombardo released a commercial Tuesday discussing a case in which the state attorney's office declined to file charges against a subject who later killed a Bradenton man.
On the same day the television spot was released, Brodsky voiced concerns of special interest money funding Lombardo's campaign and influencing the polls.
Earlier in his campaign, Brodsky gained the support of multi-millionaire Gary Kompothecras, owner of Ask Gary.
Now, Brodsky believes Kompothecras is supporting Lombardo through finances for the television commercial.
Kompothecras came to the state attorney's office with allegations that a former employee had stolen trade secrets. Hillsborough County previously declined to file charges in the case.
"I decided that to avoid all conflict of interest I would not have anything to do with the case, review, investigation or decision," Brodsky said.
During an initial review and after another look at the case with further evidence provided by Kompothecras' attorneys, it was decided no charges would be filed.
"I had been told by a number of individuals that if these criminal charges were not filed that Dr. Gary would be heavily funding my opponent," Brodsky said, stating the pressure continued throughout both investigations.
Brodsky said he and the state attorney's office will "not be bullied politically for prosecution that is unwarranted and unjustified."
Earl Moreland, who has been state attorney for 24 years, said community leaders came to him concerned about the situation.
Moreland said he has never seen that kind of political pressure put on his office.
Brodsky said when charges were not filed, Florida First, a political action committee based in Bradenton, received on July 3 a $100,000 contribution from 17th Street Sarasota LLC., a Kompothecras-owned company.
Florida First has given a substantial amount of money to Strategic Image Management, a political consultant firm in Tampa, which is handling Lombardo's campaign.
"I have no knowledge of what Brodsky is talking about," Lombardo said when asked about his opponent's statements regarding Kompothecras.
Florida First's spending following the receipt of the $100,000 is not yet available, as its most recent financial disclosure lists no July expenditures.
"To say there is one check paying for one thing, that's not right," said Anthony Pedicini, Lombardo's campaign manager and founder of Strategic Image Management.
Lombardo said the production of the commercial, available at www.brodskyletwalkergo.com, was paid to Strategic Image Management last year. The commercial will be aired on Comcast and Bright House cable networks.
Lombardo's expenditures show he gave $3,000 to the firm on Oct. 26 with the purpose of video listed.
There are no expenditures related to the purchasing of television time. However, Lombardo said that would be reflected in the next financial disclosure period.
"That was paid recently out of my campaign funds, most of which came from personal funds," Lombardo said.
Brodsky, however, questions how Lombardo can afford the advertising, citing that Lombardo has $1,000 in kind and raised less than $2,000 in the most recent filing period which ended July 6.
The advertisement shares the story of Roberta Ramsey, whose husband, Daniel, was killed in February 2007.
Michael Walker was convicted in 2008 of breaking into the Ramsey's home and shooting Daniel Ramsey to death. However, Walker was granted a new trial and later sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and armed burglary. His accomplice, Anthony Lewis, who fired the shot that killed Daniel Ramsey, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, court records show.
"Ed Brodsky was responsible for my husband's death," Roberta says before Walker's mug shot and case documents appear, explaining that despite confessing to an armed robbery in an unrelated case prior to the Ramsey murder, charges were not filed against Walker.
"I think it's sad they used the woman in that case and took advantage of her, utilizing her to lay blame that I was directly responsible for that case," Brodsky said. He went on to explain Florida law prohibits confessions unless a crime can be proved. The armed robbery victim could not be located to build a case against Walker.
Lombardo said Brodsky's concern about Kompothecras was raised to combat his commercial.
"Brodsky is trying to distract voters from his failed career," Lombardo said. "The fact he let Walker go and Mr. Ramsey died is the real story."
Brodsky said he only wants the public to be aware of what is behind Lombardo's "media blitz."
"What I brought to light is my office was threatened and received pressure from Dr. Gary," Brodsky said. "The distraction is the lack of transparency about what is taking place in front of them (the public)."
Despite the back-and-forth between the two candidates, the winner of the Aug. 14 primary will face Democrat John Torraco in the Nov. 6 general election.