Republican Challenger Accuses Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) Of Trying To Bribe Him

Republican James Jett, the clerk of the circuit court for Clay County, Florida and a primary challenger to 12-term incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said today that Stearns tried to buy him out of the race.

The Florida Times-Union reports that Jett claimed Stearns offered him, through a middleman, “a job on Stearns’ campaign staff or cash to cover the approximately $25,000 Jett has personally spent on his congressional run,” and possibly “a job heading the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or a U.S. marshal position” pending future vacancies. Jett claimed to have audio recordings of the conversations, though he has not yet made those public.

Jett said he reported this to the FBI and that the Bureau is looking into the matter. A spokesman for the FBI’s Jacksonville bureau told ThinkProgress that as a matter of policy, they do not confirm or deny investigations.

According to Clay Today, a local newspaper, a Stearns spokesman denied the charges, saying:


Mr. Jett requested a meeting with Rep. Stearns through Stearns’ supporters indicating that he intended to drop out of the race. At the meeting, Jett announced that he would not drop out of the race. Neither Stearns nor his supporters suggested that Jett receive anything in return for dropping out and the meeting was terminated.

If the FBI does open an investigation, Stearns would join several Republican colleagues on the list of ongoing ethics scandals.