Jacksonville's Shofar magazine, which derives its name from an old Hebrew word for a ram's-horn trumpet blown before battle, bills itself as "a Bi-monthly publication that has an online and print circulation of more than 490,000 and is growing rapidly. It's oversized page and voice command the attention of the most influential celebrities. If you are looking to promote your business, ministry, or product Shofar magazine is sure to ring the alarm making sure your cause, event, or campaign is both seen and heard" [all sic].
A Jacksonville City Councilwoman decided to promote all three — her business, ministry and product. And to do this, according to campaign finance records, she used campaign funds to purchase advertorial space in the magazine, but she didn't include the disclaimers required by Florida Statutes Chapter 106 for political advertisements. At
the very least, her $4,000 outlay is a questionable expenditure. Daniels has gotten money from everyone from W.W. Gay to the Fraternal Order of Police. Did they know their campaign checks were going to promote her book about demons?
On March 1, 2014, Kimberly Daniels listed, as a reelection campaign expenditure, $4,000 to Shofar for the purpose of "advertising." (Thanks to Change4Jax.com for bringing this material to my attention.) But she didn't place anything labeled as an advertisement in the magazine — not from her campaign, not from her political action committee. What she did, instead, was use funds from her campaign treasury to promote her own Christian ministry.
She did this in the form of what are apparently pay-for-play, unlabeled-as-advertorial essays discussing her leadership style and her, shall we say, unique book.
In the magazine's Spring 2014 issue, Daniels — the founder of Spoken Word Ministries, Kimberly Daniels Ministries International and Rhema Way City Church — promotes her new book in an essay headlined "The Demon Dictionary Is Released!" In it, she thanks every "Commander of the Morning" who has helped the book "find favor" with Walmart's distribution arm, asking that every "Commander" order "1-5 Demon Dictionaries to plant a seed in someone's life," as she needs help to "penetrate the marketplace for Jesus."
Daniels encourages readers to "not be afraid of the dark world. ‘We ought to be afraid of smoking cigarettes, marijuana, lying and cheating, and treating others wrong. We ought to afraid [sic] of living like hellions, and not being equipped by God to deal with situations without being suicidal, without being checked into mental institutions.'" (It is not clear whom or what she is quoting here. This section, it's worth noting, is accompanied by photos of her with Matt Shirk and Shad Khan.)
"The demon dictionary," she continues, "gives believers spiritual secret intelligence on the devil that goes as far as to reveal ‘how our enemy thinks.' We cannot know the mind Christ [sic] but we can have the mind of Christ. Through God's word He gives us insight on how the enemy thinks so that we can be ahead of the game and out-think him."
(Daniels' The Demon Dictionary: Know Your Enemy. Learn His Strategies. DEFEAT HIM! is published by Charisma House and retails in paperback for $11.99 at ChristianBook.com. The first in a three-volume series, it is described as an "in-depth glossary and study guide on demons [that] includes terminology, explanations, and examples of occult activity and cultic culture" that will "build your spiritual vocabulary, increase your knowledge of cultic and demonic words, names, places, and things, [and] bring light to areas of your life that the enemy wants to remain dark.")
Even though she purchased space in Shofar with money from her campaign account, Daniels addressed politics only peripherally in the magazine, in a bizarre essay called "Leader-Shift," which includes some wacky conspiracy theories about city government. To wit: "Certain Special Interests [sic] Groups with finances and resources have declared that they will take all nine seats through their influence." She also harangues an unnamed "group of ladies in our city [who] are vain enough to think they have the answer to every seat in the city" and a group that "has dared to declare destruction to the lives of certain city officials, just to get their seats."
Her conclusion is similarly measured: "May the diseased parts of the vision for our city be removed and God have mercy on their souls."
Again, nowhere does she declare this a political advertisement. This, though the law clearly states: "Any political advertisement that is paid for by a candidate, except a write-in candidate, and that is published, displayed, or circulated before, or on the day of, any election must prominently state: 1. Political advertisement paid for and approved by (name of candidate), (party affiliation), for (office sought); or 2. Paid by (name of candidate), (party affiliation), for (office sought)."
I called Shofar last Thursday. Angie Bree, a journalist, answered the phone. She described Shofar as an "inspirational, definitely not political" magazine, and explained how Daniels' work ended up in there. "Yes, she did buy the space," Bree said. "She did stuff with us a while ago, earlier, it's been about a year. We don't know the depth of what it was supposed to look like, but she got what she paid for."
So, to sum: Out of her campaign fund, Daniels gave Shofar $4,000 — labeled on campaign documents as advertising — for certain considerations, which included promoting a book that has nothing to do with her campaign and everything to do with her private ministry and advertorials that did not include the seemingly required disclaimers.
When I called, Daniels insisted that she did nothing wrong. And she may be right. Legally. Technically. A spokesperson for the Florida Elections Commission told me the FEC could not issue an opinion on the matter unless a citizen files a complaint, and even then the complaint would be confidential unless probable cause was established. A local expert on these things told me (on background) that because these are not expressly political communications, Daniels may have wiggle room on the disclaimers. Also, even though these ads are paid for with campaign funds, it's not illegal to use that money to promote her private enterprise, the source added. Florida law only forbids candidates from using campaign money to defray non-campaign-related living expenses.
Shady, yes. Sleight of hand, sure. But perhaps not illegal. Technically. Just embarrassing as hell for her donors, who might not have known they were financing some nutty religious rants.
Additional reporting by Derek Kinner.