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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Why David Jolly's campaign fundraising pledge doesn't mean much



The Tampa Bay Times was among numerous outlets that gave Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly glowing publicity for his long shot proposal to ban federal officials from directly asking for campaign contributions and his pledge to abide by that ban as he runs for office. Having members of congress spend more of their time working to fix problems than raising money for the reelection is an idea everybody can embrace.

 Before we start treating Jolly like Mr. Purity in the realm of political fundraising, however, let's remember that he is not sacrificing a great deal with this promise not to personally twist arms for campaign checks.

Why? For one thing, Jolly has never been a powerhouse money raiser any way. In his 2014 special election against Democrat Alex Sink, he raised $1.3-million and she raised $2.7-million, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

For another thing, Jolly from the start has been happy to leave the heavy lifting of financing his campaigns to outside groups. In that 2014 election outside groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and RNC, spent nearly $5-million on Jolly's behalf, while Democratic outside groups spent about $3.7-million helping Sink.

"The influence has grown so strong with unlimited, unchecked money that we're probably within ten years of a candidate not needing to raise a single dime," Rep. Jolly said at Eckerd College in October, "Because the fate of that candidate will actually be controlled by the outside groups who at a factor of 100 to 1 are able to outraise and outspend the very candidate they are supporting."

He knows his senate campaign will depend far more on independent groups spending money on his behalf than his own dialing for dollars ever will. 

That's why he is banking on the U.S. Chamber helping him again this year and why his allies have set up an independently operating super PAC committee, awkwardly called FloridAmerican Conservatives. Financial backers of that group include south Florida billionaire health care executive Mike Fernandez and St. Petersburg businessman James MacDougald, whose advocacy group, Free Enterprise Nation, used to employ Jolly as a lobbyist.

"As an immigrant who came to this country over 50 years ago, I learned that hard work and core-values will allow you to succeed in this great country. I will never be able to repay this great country for what is has given me and provided for my family, but if I can leave this country better than when I came here I consider that success," Fernandez said in a statement. "In order to leave this country better than it is today, we must have the proven leaders who are courageous enough to lead this great country and to act upon their morals and principles. I cannot think of a better proven leader with better morals and principles than David Jolly. He is a guy who is unafraid to speak his mind and call things like he sees it. His recent STOP Act proposal to get Congress working again is a prime example of that. We need more people who have the guts to shake things up in Washington. "

Today is the anniversary of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that helped pave the way for such heavy reliance on super PACs that can accept unlimited campaign donations and in some cases can avoid disclose their donors. The three major Republicans running for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat each has his own super PAC.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wants to make this a campaign issue.

"In the six years since the terrible Citizens United decision, outside special interests groups, often funded by secret donors, have driven up both the cost of campaigning and the level of cynicism among Florida voters. While Democrats have introduced measures to shine a light on this political spending, Republicans like Congressmen Ron DeSantis and David Jolly have passed on the opportunity to stand up to the special interests and improve transparency," said the DSCC's Sadie Weiner. "With the difficult election year ahead, we now know why: DeSantis, Jolly and the rest of their vulnerable colleagues need these dark-money groups to help save their political careers, and it’s clear they would rather keep Florida voters in the dark about who is bankrolling and propping up their campaigns."

The DSCC's preferred candidate. Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. He too has a "dark money" super PAC working on his behalf, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 5:23pm]


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