Unopposed legislative candidates kick-back nearly $600K to Florida GOP, new reports show

By on September 10, 2012

One of the best fundraising hauls for the Florida GOP did not occur at some swank reception with a nationally-recognized keynote speaker. It did not occur at the Governor’s Club or at a hotel ballroom or in a luxury box at a sporting event.

In fact, this haul took place without a single hors d’oeuvre being served.

There was no single specific date and time given for when the Florida GOP accepted this six-figure contribution, but it essentially occurred at noon on June 15, 2012, when as many 21 Republican legislative candidates won re-election without opposition.

These unopposed candidates donated at least $571,000 to the Republican Party of Florida (and its fundraising vehicles), according to an analysis of campaign finance documents made available on Sept. 6.

How did this come to be?

At the close of candidate qualifying at noon on June 15, each legislative candidate had left in their campaign treasuries, on average,  $70,244 if they were running for the State House, $110,347 if they were running for the State Senate.

With all of that money in their campaign accounts, candidates had a variety of options for disposing of the money – and dispose of it they had to. Unlike congressional candidates, legislative candidates cannot carry over any money to the next campaign.

That’s what led to the six-figure haul for the Florida GOP.

Once a candidate becomes unopposed, he or she may only expend funds from the campaign account to: 1. Purchase “thank you” advertising for up to 75 days after he or she became unopposed; 2. Pay for items which were obligated before he or she became unopposed; 3. Pay for expenditures necessary to close down the campaign office and to prepare final campaign reports; or 4. Dispose of surplus funds as provided in Section 106.141, F.S..

This statute stipulates that candidates can return the unspent money to their donors pro rata, donate the funds to charity, give the money to their political party, give the money to the state’s general fund and/or transfer up to $10,000 to their legislative office account.

As expected much of that money ended up with the political parties. As much as $571,000.

According to Nancy Watkins, a campaign treasurer to dozens of Florida political candidates, “it’s a party for the parties.” That’s because, Watkins explained, in contrast to years past when the amount of money candidates could transfer to the parties was capped, there is now no limit on how much candidates can donate to their own parties.

That’s how political rock stars like Speaker Designate Will Weatherford and Dana Young were able to transfer $100,000 each to the Republican Party of Florida.

Weatherford and Young lead a list of legislative candidates who donated a significant portion of their leftover funds to the Florida GOP. (It should be noted that Weatherford, Young, and almost every unopposed legislative candidate also donated just as significant a portion of their surplus funds to charity.)

Here is a list of candidates who won election without opposition and how much they donated to the Republican Party of Florida or one of its fundraising vehicles, such as House Majority.

District 1 Clay Ingram  $    10,000
District 4 Matt Gaetz  $    20,000
District 6 Jimmy Patronis  $    10,000
Distict 10 Elizabeth Porter  $      5,000
District 15 Dan Davis  $    50,000
District 16 Charles McBurney  $    15,000
District 18 Travis Cummings  $    20,000
District 19 Charles Van Zant  N/A
District 22 Charlie Stone  $      2,000
District 31 Bryan Nelson  $    10,279
District 32 Larry Metz  $    12,000
District 33 Marlene O’Toole  $    10,000
District 38 Will Weatherford  $  100,000
District 44 Steve Precourt  N/A
District 52 Ritch Workman  $    12,000
District 54 Debbie Mayfield  $    20,000
District 56 Ben Albritton  $    50,000
District 60 Dana Young  $  100,000
District 64 James Grant  N/A
District 75 Ken Roberson  $    22,500
District 5 Charlie Dean  $    35,000
District 28 Nancy Detert  $    15,000
District 37 Anitere Flores  $    40,000
Distirct 38 Rene Garcia  $    12,666
District 40 Miguel DLP
 $  571,445

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