Bills that would change campaign financing/fundraising bills cleared their first legislative committee Wednesday morning and are one step away from reaching the floor of the House for consideration.
One (HB 989) of the two measures adopted by the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee is a resolution that would put an amendment on the ballot in November that, if passed by voters, would repeal Florida’s campaign financing for candidates for statewide office.
Repealing the campaign financing law that is currently in the state constitution has been a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.
“This (public financing) is a gross waste of taxpayer money and is nothing more than welfare for politicians,” Corcoran said in a statement released last year. “You really have to be clueless or just plain selfish to accept money from our state coffers that could go to our school children, first responders, or be put back in the pockets of our taxpayers.”
The resolution is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, who is seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general this year.
“The case against taxpayer funding for campaigns begins with a principle we should never forget — before a tax dollar can be spent, it must first be earned by a taxpayer,” said White who contributed $1.5 million of his own money to help fund his campaign for attorney general.
White says the 1998 Constitutional Revision Commission put the public financing amendment on the ballot in an effort to level the playing field among candidates and restrict the influence of money in politics. He says “neither of those claims survive scrutiny.”
White claims that in the last three statewide contests in 2006, 2010 and 2014, incumbents and candidates who already held office received far more in public campaign financing than those who did not.
“Those folks (established candidates) have received over $21 million in taxpayer funds, while other candidates — the outsiders, those who are not part of the moneyed political class — have received less than $1.5 million,” White told the committee.
The other legislation (HB 707) approved by the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee would change the way the governor and three statewide cabinet officers could raise money in election years.
The legislation would ban the governor and other statewide elected officials from soliciting campaign donations while the Florida Legislature is in session. Currently only legislators are banned from raising money during session.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, says the bill is designed to level the playing field between incumbents in those statewide offices and those in the Legislature who might wish to run for one of those positions.
“It’s simply a matter of what is good for the goose, is good for the gander,” said Rep. Jenne. “I believe this is good public policy and removes the potential appearance, just the appearance, of impropriety.”
Both measures have one more stop in the committee process — the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee — before they reach the floor of the House.