Tampa Bay Times calling out Frank White’s ‘gift’ smacks of paternalism

Frank White and his family are successful; no one should begrudge them their good fortune.

Nevertheless, in a recent story on White’s campaign finances in his bid for Attorney General, that is exactly what the Tampa Bay Times does with a piece that smacks of paternalism.

At issue is $1.5 million White “received” from his wife, Stephanie White, which political correspondent William March describes in a variety of ways, implying the money is more than it appears. White gave the cash to his campaign, March writes, after his wife gave him the money “shortly before” he made the contribution.

The Times’ subheadline calls it a loan, but further down in the story, March calls it a “gift.”

It is no minor distinction, as labeling it one way or the other could have important ramifications.

Unfortunately, like a game of political Mad Libs, the story fills in blanks which the facts simply do not support.

White filed campaign financial paperwork July 7, 2017, which give his net worth snapshot through May 31, 2017. Months later, in September, Stephanie White received a dividend from a company where she is a shareholder.

As March writes: “If she gave him that money for the purpose of putting it into his campaign, according to campaign finance law experts, it could be illegal.”

That’s not quite the case.

In fact, after receiving the money, again about a month before Frank White made the loan in question, Stephanie deposited the funds in a JOINT checking account — thereby making it common property.

In this case, the word “joint” is significant.

Few would refer to a deposit by a spouse into a joint account (be it stock dividends or a weekly paycheck) as a “gift.”

Suggesting that a husband or wife is “gifting” his or her salary to their significant other, usually for such things as buying food, paying bills — or even loaning to a political campaign — is more than just a little paternalistic. The money is in the account, to be used as the husband (or wife) sees fit.

And in full compliance with Florida statutes, when Frank White files the required paperwork, he will update both his income and debt, reflecting the new funds.

Nothing nefarious at all, irrespective of how the Times seeks to portray it.