75 percent of all election year checks written in Florida skirted campaign finance limits
Florida’s sputtering economy did not stop interest groups and donors from spending $306 million this election cycle on state political campaigns, according to final election year tallies released Friday.
The number is lower than the $550 million reported in the 2010 election cycle and does not include the massive amount of federal cash spent in the presidential race. But it points to a new trend: more dollars are going to campaign committees rather than individual candidates.
Three out of every four dollars were unlimited checks to political committees, while the rest went into the campaign accounts of individuals, which are capped at $500 a check.
The shift is a sign that Florida’s $500 limit is outdated and dysfunctional — and ripe for reform, said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, which did the analysis of the campaign finance data released by the Florida Division of Elections.
“Candidate accounts have become nearly irrelevant,’’ said Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida. The current system allows corporations to write unlimited checks to political committees with loose affiliations to candidates but require them to give no more than $1000 to individual candidates for both the primary and general election. The result is, he said, “the public cannot easy follow the money.’’
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has called for an overhaul of the state’s campaign finance reforms said Friday the numbers prove his point that the political committees – known as Committees of Continuous Existence, or CCEs – have gotten out of hand. Story here.
Most expensive state House races:
Chris Dorworth, R-Orlando, defeated:$604,587
Michael Bileca, R-Miami, won:$600,934
Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, defeated: $511,321
Halsey Beshears, R-Monticellos, won: $489,025
Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, won:$464,837
Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, unopposed:$436,423
Bob Brooks, R-Orlando, defeated: $429,763
David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, won:$385,411
Marco Pena, R-Orlando, defeated:$381,414
Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, won:$370,475
Most expensive state Senate races:
Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, defeated:$1,185,030
Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, won:$921,818
Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, won:$770,742
Dorothy L. Hukill, R-Daytona Beach, won:$757,379
Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, won:$729,845
Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, won:$727,935
Joe Negron, R-Palm City, won:$692,731
Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, won:$628,984
Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, won:$607,796
Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, won:$582,025Top political committees in the 2011-12 Election Cycle:
Political Action Together — painters and builders union: $6.1 million
Let’s Get to Work — Gov. Rick Scott: $5.2 million
Taxpayers First — proponents of Amendment 4 property tax breaks: $4.7 million
Vote No on 6 — opponents of abortion amendment: $4 million
Realtors PAC — proponents Amendment 4: $3.9 million
American Resort Development Association — timeshare industry, supporting Amendment 4: $3.8 million
Liberty Foundation of Florida — undisclosed, supporting GOP candidates: $3.4 million
Defend Justice from Politics — supporting Supreme Court merit retention: $3.3 million
Enterprise Holdings — political committee for rental car company: $3.3 million
Honeywell International — political committee for technology company: $3 million
Source: Florida Division of Elections