Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stearns, Haridopolos, LeMieux have campaign cash but no campaign

Twelve-term U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns lost his Republican primary to a little known tea party opponent last week with as much as $2 million still sitting in his campaign account.

Now he has no campaign to spend it on.

Stearns, it turns out, is one of several high-profile Florida candidates ousted from the campaign trail with formidable war chests of leftover cash. Stearns was sitting on about $2.1 million in late July, while former U.S. Senate candidates Mike Haridopolos and George LeMieux have about $1.4 million and $1 million, respectively.

Money raised for federal campaigns cannot go to personal expenses but almost anything else is fair game.

"I'm sure congressman Stearns is getting quite a few calls from the Republican Party of Florida and other political party committees saying 'Hey, can we have some of your campaign funds?' " said Michael Toner, former Federal Election Commission chairman. "He may want to hang on to the money, but he'll certainly be under pressure to give."

Stearns did not respond to requests for an interview.

Often, candidates steer unused money to state or national political parties, donate it to charities, spend it to help elect friends or roll it over to pay for future campaigns.

Haridopolos, for example, abruptly shut down his U.S. Senate campaign in July 2011 with a stockpile of nearly $2.4 million, promising to "rededicate" himself to his role as state Senate president and not run for office for at least two years.

He returned $1 million to donors and contributed $4,000 to U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and another $4,000 to U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.

Mack won the GOP Senate primary and is facing off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, and Posey's congressional seat may be ripe for Haridopolos if Posey retires in 2014.

Posey said this week he hasn't decided whether he'll retire and Haridopolos hasn't given him any hint that he wants his seat.

Haridopolos, who has frequently deflected questions about his leftover $1.4 million, did not return calls seeking comment.

"That's a nice amount of funds he's sitting on," Toner said. "He's got money there to use and be visible. Most common is to fly around the country and maintain your donor network and keep your visibility up."

LeMieux, who bowed out of the U.S. Senate GOP primary and endorsed rival Mack in June, returned $5,750 to his biggest donors and is hanging on to $940,134, according to FEC filings.

LeMieux said he might give some money to Republican candidates, but he wouldn't say who he's interested in supporting. Florida limits on campaign contributions would prevent LeMieux or any other candidate from repurposing federal campaign money for a state race.

When asked whether he's saving the money for a future political bid, LeMieux declined to answer.

"We'll have to see what the future holds," he said. "In Florida, everything changes over and over again. It's hard to predict."

Candidates don't always have leftover cash. In fact, often they don't.

Presidential campaigns are notorious for carrying such huge amounts of debt they often take years to repay.

And, in heated legislative races, candidates frequently use their final dollars to pay their debts and shut down their campaigns.

When Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio beat former Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, for example, they were left with $103,015 and $71,745, respectively. Crist said it took the last of his money to pay off his campaign expenses.

"We spent it on whatever bills came in," he said. "We just wanted to make sure that anybody we had any obligations to were paid in full."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached bdavis@tampabay.com.

Stearns, Haridopolos, LeMieux have campaign cash but no campaign 08/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 24, 2012 12:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  2. See inside this Snell Isle home with an amazing chandelier and infinity pool

    Home and Garden

    When Elizabeth and David Samuelson started planning the house they built six years ago on Snell Isle, the couple envisioned a West Indies look with masonry stucco walls and a metal hip roof. As they moved forward, it evolved into something they describe as coastal contemporary.

    Elizabeth Samuelson and David Samuelson's at the entrance to their Snell Isle house which has numerous luxurious features yet is a comfortable home for a family of four. An infinity pool blends seamlessly from the terrace right into Tampa Bay. Doors surrounding the family room open and are then out of sight enabling the interior to seem more outside than inside. David designed and made a chandelier with hundreds of dangling, clear fish that hangs over the foyer.
  3. Appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court dealt another blow to President Donald Trump's revised travel ban targeting six-Muslim majority countries on Thursday, siding with groups that say the policy illegally targets Muslims.

    Donald Trump will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. [Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via AP]
  4. Former USF head basketball coach Orlando Antigua, center, and assistant coach Rod Strickland, right, during a 2015 game at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Why do people even hold hands, anyway?

    Human Interest

    Nothing lit up the internet this week quite like hand holding, or the lack of it.

    US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on May 23, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Filippo Monteforte.