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Donations to HUD Secretary Probed

October 12, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ State investigators are looking into claims that local homebuilders illegally funneled money into the 1998 campaign of Mel Martinez, now the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Martinez, Orange County’s former chairman, is not a suspect.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation comes as the three-year statute of limitations on illegal campaign contributions is about to run out.

State law prohibits companies from giving more than $500 to a single campaign during an election cycle.

The Homebuilders Association of Mid-Florida gave $3,500 in $500 increments to seven other homebuilding groups in the state, elections records show. Those groups each contributed $500 to Martinez’s campaign.

``We certainly didn’t know anything about it,″ said Martinez’s 1998 campaign manager, Treacute Evers.

A person convicted of violating campaign-finance laws can face third-degree felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Corporations can be fined between $10,000 and $50,000.

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