Some call it “welfare for politicians.” But there is an official name for the taxpayer dollars that Florida statewide political candidates can collect and spend on their campaigns: Election Campaign Matching Funds.
A new report issued by the Florida Department of State reveals that most of the leading candidates running for statewide office – governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, and chief financial officer – have collected more than $4.6 million in public money that they are then free waste on their respective campaigns.
The worst offender? The leading Democrat candidate for governor, Gwen Graham. So far, she’s collected $1,095,567.48 in free money from taxpayers and is spending it on television ads, mail, and fundraising efforts all to convince you that she’ll be a good steward of your tax dollars if you’ll just elect her governor.
Tomorrow, she’ll pick up another check worth $34,044.00 from the Florida Secretary of State’s office, bringing her grand total to $1.13 million.
Republican voters particularly disdain the program because it flies in the face of the conservative idea that government officials should protect taxpayers from wasteful spending. Forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for political campaigns, especially for wealthy candidates, is particularly insulting.
That’s why it’s surprising that both GOP candidates for governor, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam, have both opted into the program, collecting more than $1.8 million between them.
Another GOP candidate for Attorney General, Ashley Moody, has also opted into the program, billing taxpayers $319,208.42 for her campaign expenses. Campaign disclosures show Moody’s personal net worth is more than $3 million.
Her opponent, Frank White, is one of the few Republicans who has refused to accept the handout.
In the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Baxter Troutman and Matt Caldwell have also refused to accept taxpayer dollars for their campaigns, while Denise Grimsely opted into the program. She has collected a quarter of a million dollars so far.
Only three Democrat candidates running for governor haven’t collected any public money at all, each of them are independently wealthy: Jeff Greene, Chris King and Phil Levine.
Andrew Gillum is the only Democrat governor candidate who can say with a straight face that the $436,000 check he’ll pick up tomorrow is going to a politician who isn’t already extremely rich.
Florida passed the matching-funds law years ago with the idea of helping non-wealthy citizens mount campaigns for statewide office. But as with most government programs, it’s proven wasteful and ineffective.
The program provides matching dollars to candidates based on how much money they have already raised, meaning candidates who raise large sums of money qualify for even more money under the law.