DeSantis continues to pull in millions for reelection campaign






Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attends an event with President Donald Trump in September. | AP Photo

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attends an event with President Donald Trump in September. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to haul in money for his reelection campaign at a torrential pace, adding close to $6 million since the start of this year’s annual Florida legislative session on March 2.

DeSantis shut down his fundraising operations at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but he restarted his efforts back up in October. He has raised more than $11.3 million over the last six-and-a-half months — but about half of it flowed in since state legislators started their work.

The governor is significantly outraising the Republican Party of Florida, which reported on Monday that it had raised $3.65 million into its state account for the first three months of 2021.

DeSantis is also swamping Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat who is considered a likely challenger. Fried has raised just over $154,000 since the start of March and slightly more than $450,000 overall since October.

The significant numbers demonstrate that Florida’s business community is solidly behind DeSantis, who has been critical of lockdowns and eschewed mask mandates as the state has dealt with coronavirus. More than 34,000 Floridians have died in the past 13 months.

No limits: Both DeSantis and Fried are currently raising money for their political committees — which can accept donations of any amount.

Political committees have some restrictions on how the money can be spent, but there are many ways to sidestep the requirements under Florida’s loose campaign finance laws. DeSantis has yet to open up an actual campaign account for governor, but instead has been holding fundraisers for his committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, including one held last month at a Tallahassee golf club.

DeSantis’ substantial money haul has been aided substantially by corporations and business groups who have a stake in the flurry of legislation that is currently moving through the Legislature. Lawmakers are barred from raising money during session, but that restriction does not apply to the governor even though he can derail a bill if he publicly opposes it.

The governor has also received backing from well-known GOP donors including Bernard Marcus, the former CEO of Home Depot who was a significant donor for former President Donald Trump. Marcus wrote DeSantis a $250,000 check in March.

DeSantis also took in three checks totaling $425,000 from three political committees run by well-known Republican pollster and consultant Ryan Tyson. The committees are bankrolled by major Florida corporations such as health insurer Florida Blue, U.S. Sugar and Disney, and are affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, a business group.

Much of Fried’s contributions have come in small-dollar amounts, some as small as $5, although she did receive $40,000 from two committees connected to a South Florida law firm.

“While the governor is focused on filling his campaign coffers with massive, six-figure contributions from rich donors and vaccine auctions, Commissioner Fried is dedicated to serving Floridians and doing her job to support farmers, protect consumers, and fight for families,” said Fried spokesperson Max Flugrath.

What’s next: DeSantis is starting to build up a political operation that is expected to kick into gear following the end of the 2022 session. Fried and other Democrats contemplating running against DeSantis will also decide over the next few months whether to formally challenge the incumbent governor.


www.politico.com

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