ORLANDO, Fla. - Five million and counting. That is how much Florida taxpayers have paid to subsidize political campaigns this year, and the year isn’t over.
Since it was approved in 1986, Florida taxpayers have been partially footing the bill for statewide races. The money is an optional match by the state for candidates running for one of the four cabinet positions: governor, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, and chief financial officer.
“The idea was if you give public funding for people running for office they’ll be less reliant on people who can give tons of money,” says UCF political science professor Dr. Aubrey Jewett.
So far this year, nine candidates have opted for the public match; four were defeated in the August primary. Candidates who lost in the primary do not have to return the money, as Dr. Jewett note, “it’s a gift from the Florida taxpayer, it’s not a loan.”
The state requires candidates meet a threshold of fundraising to qualify for the match: $150,000 for governor candidates and $100,000 for cabinet candidates. Once a candidate reaches this level, any donation from a Florida resident, up to $250, will be matched by the state. Candidates cannot receive a match for out-of-state donations, or donations from businesses.
Over the years, some politicians have sought to end the public financing of campaigns. In 2017, Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran called the financing “a gross waste of taxpayer money” saying it was “nothing more than welfare for politicians.” Despite the opposition, the Florida Legislature did not put forward an amendment to repeal the financing.
Because the public financing of campaigns is in the Florida Constitution, voters would have to amend the constitution, something that requires 60% of the vote. The last time voters were asked to repeal public financing was in 2010, with the measure receiving on 52.4% of the vote.
As of September 7 here is how much each candidate has received.
Ron DeSantis (R) - $1,055,324
Andrew Gillum (D) - $558,241.34
Gwen Graham (D) - $1,219,560
Adam Putnam (R) - $1,081,884
Chief financial officer
Jimmy Patronis (R) - $305,105
Ashley Moody (R) -$380,174
Sean Shaw (D) - $222,701
Ryan Torrens (D) - $88,693
Commissioner of agriculture
Denise Grimsley (R) - $275,183
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