Marsha Laufer Archives - Florida Politics
RON DESANTIS

Chicago billionaire fuels $8M week for Ron DeSantis

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis raked in more than $8.25 million between his campaign and committee during the first week of October, which goes down as his most prolific fundraising week of the election cycle.

DeSantis raised nearly $1.2 million in hard money, including 125 contributions for the maximum campaign donation of $3,000. In all, his report showed more than 7,500 contributions with two-thirds of those donors chipping in $50 or less — before the new report, DeSantis had considerably lagged behind Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum when it came to “small dollar” donors.

The rest of the monster haul came in through DeSantis’ affiliated PAC, Friends of Ron DeSantis, which posted more than $7 million in receipts during the reporting period covering Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.

The weekly donor list was around 150 names long, but the name at the top, Kenneth C. Griffin, was responsible for the vast majority of that haul. Griffin is a Chicago-based investor, hedge fund manager and philanthropist who is also serving as the national finance chair for New Republican PAC, the political committee fueling Gov. Rick Scott‘s campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Griffin cut DeSantis a check for $5 million on Oct. 3. The next-largest was a quartet of $100,000 contributions — one apiece from Joe Anderson III of Old Town, Thomas Peterffy of Palm Beach, David McNeil of Hinsdale, Illinois, and The Middlesex Corporation.

The reports also showed a massive amount of spending, with nearly $7 million exiting DeSantis’ war chest. The bulk of that cash, $6.5 million, went to the Republican Party of Florida. RPOF provided the DeSantis campaign with $723,000 worth of “in-kind” support during the week.

Though DeSantis scored a fundraising coup, Gillum didn’t flame out.

The Tallahassee Mayor has so far reported $3.3 million in committee fundraising during the same stretch via Forward Florida. Team Gillum has yet to upload their new campaign finance report, but their last report showed $1.7 million in hard money, with nearly 12,500 donations, 219 max checks and a whopping 9,800 contributions of $50 or less.

Democratic Governors Association topped the committee ledger with a $1 million check. Florida-based philanthropist Marsha Laufer, the wife of Henry Laufer, chipped in another $500,000, bringing her overall contributions to Team Gillum up to $780,000. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a possible 2020 presidential candidate, sent over $250,000, while the Barbara Stiefel Trust and Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck PA each wrote $100,000 checks.

Committee spending came in at $4.2 million for the week, nearly all of that cash heading to the Florida Democratic Party.

As of Oct. 5, Gillum had a combined $7.6 million on hand while DeSantis had $6.6 million in the bank between his two accounts.

Gillum and running mate Chris King face Republican nominee Ron DeSantis and his LG pick, state Rep. Jeannette Nuñez, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Every poll since Gillum and DeSantis became their parties’ nominees has shown Gillum in the lead, though most polls have put his edge within the margin of error. According to a public poll aggregation compiled by RealClearPolitics, Gillum as a 3.7 percentage point edge with less than a month to go before Election Day.

Michael Bloomberg, DGA boost Andrew Gillum’s fundraising

Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum raised more than $3.3 million through his political committee last week, receiving hefty support from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic Governors Association and wealthy Democratic donors.

Bloomberg, who visited the Sunshine State over the weekend while reportedly exploring a 2020 presidential bid, cut a $250,000 check for Gillum’s committee, Forward Florida, according to the state Division of Elections.

Other big-ticket donations came from Democratic donor Marsha Laufer, of Manalapan, who chipped in $500,000, and the Barbara Stiefel Trust, which wrote a $100,000 check for the Tallahassee Mayor’s gubernatorial bid. The Democratic Governors Association chipped in $1 million, bringing its total investment in Gillum so far to $4 million.

With the latest committee report filing, Gillum has raised just shy of $20 million since his upset primary. Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, through his committee and campaign accounts, has raised more than $16 million since his primary victory against Republican Adam Putnam. That sum includes fundraising from the Florida Facts committee, which has run a series of televised attack ads against Gillum, but omits last week’s fundraising numbers, due Friday.

Also boosting Gillum’s fundraising numbers were law, real estate and capital management interests. Trial attorney firm Podhurst Orsteck cut Gillum’s committee a $100,000 check. Another firm, Edison Colson, chipped in $75,000.

Miami Beach development project 420 Lincoln Road, West Ventures, and Lakeland Residential Group combined for $100,000 last week, all from the same Miami Beach address.

felon voting rights (Large)

Billionaires, Ben & Jerry’s back felons’ rights amendment

The committee sponsoring the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” which would restore voting rights to Florida felons who have completed their sentences, added more than $600,000 to its coffers during the last full week of September.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which led the drive to get Amendment 4 on the ballot, received 138 contributions for the week of Sept. 22 through Sept. 28. More than 100 of those receipts came in from individuals who gave $250 or less, but the top end of the donor roll featured some heavy hitters.

Florida–based philanthropist Marsha Laufer, the wife of Henry Laufer, chipped in $250,000, the same amount she gave Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum earlier in the month. Boston billionaire Seth Klarman also showed up with a check for a quarter million, with a quartet of individuals and entities combining for another $85,000 in contributions.

Those donors were Palm Beach retiree Jeffery Walker, the Citizens Participation Project, van Ameringen Foundation head Henry van Ameringen and Oakland, Calif.-based lawyer Scott Handelman.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy, chaired by Desmond Meade, also received nearly $95,000 worth of “in-kind” support for the weeklong reporting period. Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s was the source of about $56,000 of that support via digital advertising, while the American Civil Liberties Union provided more than $11,000 in staff time.

The $602,277 rake is the committee’s best since its report covering the two weeks leading into the Aug. 28 primary election when it raised $1.25 million. With Nov. 6 fast approaching, however, Floridians for a Fair Democracy outspent those receipts, posting more nearly $1.12 million in expenditures.

New York City-based Mercury Public Affairs received $400,000 of those funds for a digital ad buy, followed by Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media with a $370,200 media buy payment and Connecticut-based Mission Control and Miami-based Accurate Business Systems receiving a combined $321,000 for direct mail campaigns.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy set up shop in 2014 but didn’t begin raising money in earnest until after the 2016 general election. Since then, it has reeled in more than $15 million in contributions, with more than a quarter of those funds coming from the ACLU.

The committee has also had some outside help in its push for the Voting Restoration Amendment. Second Chances Florida produced a series of ads for the committee to help in the Amendment 4 push last month, and a joint effort by the Alliance for Safety and Justice and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition followed up with its own separate media buy.

Most recent surveys show Amendment 4 has broad support among Florida voters. A mid-September measure by North Star Opinion Research found the ballot amendment was supported by 74 percent of voters and a University of North Florida poll released the same week found the amendment up 71-21 percent, well over the 60 percent ballot initiatives need in order to make the Florida Constitution.

A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll from last week was less optimistic, however, finding only 42 percent of voters were firmly behind Amendment 4 compared to 20 percent in the “no” camp with more than a third of voters undecided.

Overall, there are about 1.7 million convicted felons in the Sunshine State. Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to the vast majority of those individuals with the only carveouts being felons convicted of sex offenses or murder.

The current voting rights restoration system requires felons to wait up to seven years after their conviction to apply for restoration, which is handled on a case-by-case basis by the Governor and Cabinet.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum has raised $4M since becoming Democratic nominee for Governor

In the first week since becoming the Democratic nominee for Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum collected more than $4 million in contributions between his campaign and committee accounts.

Team Gillum raked in $4.03 million during the reporting period covering Aug. 25-31, including $1.7 million in hard money and another $2.3 million for his affiliated political committee, Forward Florida.

The Gillum for Governor campaign heads into the general election with unprecedented grassroots support,” said Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan.

This campaign is powered by people who are ready for bold, progressive change. Floridians know that as governor, Mayor Gillum will work tirelessly to rebuild our state so that it works for everyone — and that’s why they are rallying behind him.”

The new reports go down as the best for each account since Gillum entered the race for Governor in February of last year. The prior high watermark for his campaign account was his $510,000 report for the first week of August, while the committee former high score was $1 million raised during the 13-day reporting period directly preceding the Aug. 28 primary election.

The campaign report is nearly 40,000 lines long and matching funds didn’t buoy the total. There were several dozen max checks at the top of the ledger, but small-dollar donors dominated — the account received more than 27,000 contributions of $25 or less.

The committee report was a stub by comparison, but it featured a pair of $1 million checks at the top, one from the Democratic Governors Association and another from Connecticut philanthropist Donald Sussman. Floridabased philanthropist Marsha Laufer, the wife of Henry Laufer, chipped in $250,000, while smaller checks came in from attorney Vincent Pawlowski, Democratic donor Cynthia Friedman of Palm Beach, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California.

The $4 million week represents more than a third of Gillum’s $11.1 million in fundraising thus far. He finished the month with a combined $4.23 million banked.

Gillum’s Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, had a comparatively light week.

His campaign account showed $276,000 in new money across 2,443 contributions, including about two dozen for the campaign max of $3,000. His political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, posted a $246,000 haul. That report was topped by a $100,000 check from the Florida Chamber of Commerce affiliated Florida Jobs PAC, and also included $50,000 checks from billionaire Casino owner Phil Ruffin and Doral-based Sunshine Gasoline Distributors as well as $25,000 from a political committee tied to CD 1 U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.

DeSantis has raised a total of $18.3 million since he launched his gubernatorial bid in January. He entered September with a combined $1.52 million in the bank.

Gillum and DeSantis will face off in the November general election. On Thursday, both men announced their running mates for the fall, with Gillum selecting businessman and former Democratic primary rival and Chris King and DeSantis selecting Miami state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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