A political committee tied to Democrat Rod Smith has given more than $393,000 to the Florida Democratic Party since May, around the same time party began airing TV ads supporting him.
The state party can purchase ad time at a more affordable rate than candidates’ committees, but state law prohibits political parties and affiliated committees from accepting contributions that have been earmarked for a particular candidate.
“Independent Leadership for Florida,” the political committee backing Smith’s Senate District 8 bid, gave $393,900 to the state party in the last fundraising period. State records show the committee made seven contributions between May and August.
The first donation came around the same time the Florida Democratic Party began running TV ads in Senate District 8 backing Smith. The 30-second spot was a chance for Smith to introduce himself to the voters in the newly drawn district, and were paid for by the Florida Democratic Party.
Senate District 8 includes all of Alachua and Putnam counties, and part of Marion County.
Since then, the state party has purchased $358,077 in airtime on cable and broadcast in the Jacksonville, Orlando, and Gainesville markets. Those ad buys were made around the same time Smith’s committee gave its contributions.
State records show the state party has spent $146,350 on consulting, campaign staff, and research and polling in Senate District 8. That sum includes the cost of benefits and taxes for campaign staffers.
Records show the state party spent $24,700 on research and polling on Aug. 17. It reported receiving a $13,000 contribution from “Independent Leadership for Florida” one day earlier, on Aug. 16.
Smith, a former state Democratic state senator and former chairman of the state party, faces Republican Keith Perry, a Gainesville state House member, in the November general.
This isn’t the only time this election cycle the state party has purchased ad time on behalf of a a candidate. Earlier this month, the state party bought $40,934 for cable airtime in the Tampa Bay market. The buy came after “Floridians for Principled Leadership,” a political committee backing Democrat Ed Narain, gave the state party $50,000.
“Floridians for Principled Leadership” has given the state party $120,000 since Aug. 5, according campaign finance records filed by the committee.
Narain is locked into a heated Democratic primary in Senate District 19 with Darryl Rouson, Betty Reed and Augie Ribeiro.