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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla GOP money woes at root of presidential forum controversy



Blaise Ingoglia, the state representative from Spring Hill and chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, insists his efforts to pressure presidential candidates to show up for a “Sunshine Summit” in November is all about showing respect to grass roots Republicans and ensuring Republicans spend time in a must-win battleground state.

Don’t kid yourself. This is all about money.

The Florida GOP, despite controlling every lever of power in Tallahassee, faces a potentially serious money crunch because of the growing reliance on independent political committees and mistrust of Ingoglia by other Republican leaders. The governor, Republican Cabinet leaders, and Republicans in the state Senate are raising little or no money for the state party and instead focusing on their own political committees.

From April through June, the Florida GOP under Ingoglia raised $1.9-million and spent $3.1-million. Deficit spending in one quarter is not necessarily a red flag, but heading into the last presidential cycle four years ago the party raised $3.5-million and spent $2.2-million.

The governor did not want Ingoglia as the chairman, and party activists heard the warnings/threats that he would cease raising money for the party if they did not elect his candidate, Leslie Dougher of Clay County. They ignored him, and he has politely disengaged from the state party, even as he continues aggressively raising money for his Let's Get to Work political committee. Rick Scott rarely even shows up any more at local Lincoln Day dinners.

Having a state representative serve as state party chairman also tends to make Republican state senators nervous. Do they really want to raise millions of dollars to elect Republican senators and then put it under the control of a Republican House member who answers to House Speaker Richard Corcoran? That’s Senate President Andy Gardiner in January yanked $800,000 out of the state Republican party to moved it into a senate campaign committee the moment Ingoglia won the chairmanship.

Sure, Ingoglia wants party activists to have a grand time listening to presidential contenders in Orlando in June. But what he really needs is to raise as much money as possible off the event, and that means he needs to do whatever he can to ensure as many candidates as possible show up in order to draw at least 2,500 people.

He is banking on raising at least $600,000 for the party, with 2,500 buying $200 tickets for the two-day session, or $300 tickets that also include a fundraising dinner headlined by former Vice President Dick Cheney on Nov. 12.

[Last modified: Friday, September 25, 2015 9:56am]


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