Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign receives $3 million in public money from controversial elections matching fund program

Crist got $964,646 and Fried got $634,092.

click to enlarge "The check was THIS big!" - photo by Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock
photo by Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock
"The check was THIS big!"

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign picked up $3.35 million in matching funds from the state on Monday, exceeding the amount he received in public money throughout the 2018 primary and general elections.

DeSantis was one of five statewide candidates who received initial draws from the long-controversial matching fund program, according to information posted online by the state Division of Elections.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried combined to receive just under $1.6 million for their campaigns, with Crist totaling $964,646 and Fried getting $634,092.

Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody’s campaign got $232,438, while Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis received $151,410.

Other candidates for attorney general and chief financial officer didn’t receive matching dollars in this year’s first distribution. Candidates for agriculture commissioner also didn’t receive the money.

In the program, public funds are provided to match contributions of $250 or less from individuals to candidates’ campaign accounts. Matching funds are not available for contributions to political committees or outside of statewide races.

Candidates accepting the state money must pledge to limit overall expenditures. Gubernatorial candidates are ineligible for the money until they collect $150,000 in contributions. For state Cabinet candidates, the threshold is $100,000.

Some lawmakers have long tried to do away with the public-financing system, which was put into the state Constitution in 1998 by voters.

The program was Intended to reduce the influence of big-money contributors by helping underfunded candidates compete in costly statewide elections. Lawmakers placed a repeal proposal on the 2010 ballot, but the measure failed when it gained only 52.5 percent of the vote, short of the required 60 percent for approval.

Lawmakers have made subsequent attempts to repeal the program, but the proposals have not made it through the Legislature.

In 2018, more than $9.85 million was distributed through public financing, with $3.23 million going to DeSantis. Another $478,903 went to Moody, $334,604 went to Patronis and $158,507 went to Fried, who successfully ran for agriculture commissioner in 2018.

The program distributed $4.34 million to 13 candidates, including Crist, in 2014. Crist, who unsuccessfully ran for governor that year, drew nearly $2.6 million from the program.

More than $6 million went to 17 candidates in 2010.

DeSantis is receiving the public money as he piles up contributions for his re-election campaign. As of July 15, DeSantis’ campaign account had brought in $13.44 million. His political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, had raised more than $130 million since the start of 2019.

Crist had raised $5.84 million for his campaign account, while Fried had brought in $2.5 million.

Crist’s political committee, Friends of Charlie Crist, has taken in $6.15 million since May 2021.

Fried’s political committee, Florida Consumers First, had raised just over $5 million since the start of 2019.

Moody had raised $1.3 million for her campaign account, while Patronis had raised $1.069 million.

Moody’s political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, had raised $5.15 million since the start of 2019, while Patronis’ committee, Treasure Florida, had raised $4.3 million in the same time.

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