Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Early-January cash grab by Florida lawmakers running for cabinet jobs

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 3:30 PM

  • Photo by Pictures of Money via Flickr
Several candidates running for state Cabinet positions were required to pause fundraising after the 60-day legislative session opened on Jan. 9.

But the state ban on lawmakers raising money during session meant some House and Senate members running for Cabinet jobs raced to bring in greenbacks in early January before the legislative gavels hit, new finance reports show.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican running for agriculture commissioner, rolled up a total of $106,100 through his campaign account and the political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell, all in the first nine days of the month.

Caldwell’s January numbers were helped by a $10,000 contribution from Disney Worldwide Services and $20,000 from the Tallahassee-based political committee Main Street Leadership Council.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republicans also running to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, hauled in $86,440 through her campaign account and the political committee Saving Florida’s Heartland.

Grimsley’s numbers included $20,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund, which is tied to the business-lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida.

Putnam, who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, is running for governor.

A third Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, former Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven, picked up $79,500 in January while not bound by the in-session ban.

The money mostly came through Troutman’s campaign account, with his political committee, iGrow, landing $10,000 in the month.

Caldwell began February with about $1.1 million on hand through his two accounts, while Grimsley was at $909,000. Troutman, who has put up $2.5 million of his own money, had just over that amount available as of Jan. 31.

Little money has come in on the Democratic side of the agriculture-commissioner race, which grew to three candidates in late January.

David Walker, a marine biologist from Fort Lauderdale, collected $1,521 during the month and added another $2,308 of his own money to the effort. Walker had raised $7,261 in overall contributions and put $11,808 of his own money into the campaign, while spending $18,608.

Neither Jeffrey Porter, who entered the race Jan. 30, or Thomas Clayton White, who filed for the office on Jan. 31, recorded any money being raised.


Not constrained by the legislative prohibition on fundraising, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis hauled in more than $300,000 through his campaign account and the political committee Treasure Florida.

Patronis posted $121,825 in contributions last month to his campaign account, while Treasure Florida gathered $193,000, of which $55,000 was from the Florida Prosperity Fund.

Since August, Patronis had raised $1.98 million for the accounts, of which just over $164,000 had been spent. Patronis, a former lawmaker and former member of the Public Service Commission, was appointed to the Cabinet post last summer by Gov. Rick Scott.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who has said he’s preparing to run for chief financial officer, picked up $73,750 in the first eight days of January through his political committee known as The Conservative.

Lee’s largest January contributions included $15,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund and $10,000 payments from the Florida Medical Association PAC and the tobacco firm RAI Services.

Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator from Broward County running for chief financial officer, posted $17,666 in contributions through his personal account last month and another $37,700 through his political committee, the Florida Action Fund. The committee’s total included $8,000 from Ring, a one-time Yahoo executive.

Ring had previously staked his personal campaign with $100,000 and started February with a combined $353,094 available from the two accounts.


In an already-contentious race for attorney general, Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, picked up $110,731 in January as her three Republican opponents —- state House members Jay Fant, Frank White and Ross Spano—- were unable to raise money during much of the month.

Moody recorded $74,731 for her campaign account and $36,000 for the committee Friends of Ashley Moody, with the bigger contributions to the political committee being $10,000 from the Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City and $10,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund.

Starting February with a total of $1.3 million in the two accounts, Moody also took advantage of nearly $28,000 worth of in-kind assistance from the Republican Party of Florida in January.

Fant raised $3,210 for his campaign account in January and didn’t record money going into his political committee Pledge This Day. He started February with a combined total of $877,506 in the accounts.

Spano of Dover recorded $28,425 in contributions last month, all into his campaign account. Spano started the current month with just under $87,000 on hand in the campaign account and in the political committee Liberty and Justice for All.

Meanwhile, White of Pensacola, reported $93,523 in contributions through his campaign account and the political committee United Conservatives in early January.

United Conservatives accounted for $62,500 of the January numbers, topped by $50,000 from Sansing Holdings, an auto-dealership group in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi where White works as chief financial officer and general counsel.

White who has put $1.5 million of his own money into the contest, started February with just over $2 million on hand.

On the Democratic side of the attorney-general contest, Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa carried over money from his House re-election campaign after declaring in mid-January a run for the statewide office. Shaw had about $51,000 on hand as of the end of the month.

Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County unbound by the legislative fundraising rule, posted $9,675 in January, while spending $7,257. Of the $75,313 Torrens had raised, all but $5,000 had been spent.

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