Money and elections always have been bedfellows in political life. But a scolding email from the next Florida House speaker castigating fellow Republicans for their lackluster fundraising efforts underscores that more is never enough. The recent missive by Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, makes raising money a higher priority than passing legislation, and it exposes the charade of holding committee meetings in Tallahassee to create more opportunities for campaign fundraisers.
It's not as if Republicans are in dire financial straits. As the Tampa Bay Times' Michael Van Sickler reported, between July 1 and Sept. 30 Republican House members hauled in $1.5 million, or $188,000 more than two years ago, a healthy 14 percent increase. But it was not healthy enough for Crisafulli, who is slated to become speaker for the 2015-16 legislative sessions. On average each House member raked in $24,434. What raised Crisafulli's ire was a surge in fundraising among the 38 Democratic House members seeking re-election, going from an average of $4,133 per member two years ago to $9,666, a 134 percent jump. Still, Crisafulli pushed House Republicans to pick up the pace of strong-arming donors and was kind enough to attach a spreadsheet ranking the Republicans by how much money they had raised in the third quarter.
The timing of the unsubtle reminder was not left to chance. It came before a week of committee meetings, when more than a dozen fundraisers were scheduled in Tallahassee. And campaign contribution limits for legislators increased from $500 to $1,000 on Monday, so last week's fundraisers were doubly productive. The Legislature has always been for sale. The price tag has only gotten higher.
There is ample time and opportunity for Florida lawmakers to raise money. Legislators are barred from raising campaign money during the Florida Legislature's regular session that begins in March. The same prohibition should be in force during committee weeks. Taxpayers should not be paying for lawmakers to have an excuse to go to Tallahassee to shake down the lobbyists. And if there were no fundraisers, it's a safe bet there would be fewer committee weeks.