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Is closing of Tom Lee political committee sign of congressional run?

Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee closed down his political committee Thursday, possibly indicating his decision to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

William S. Jones, who chaired The Conservative, sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections Thursday shuttering the longstanding fundraising account effective immediately.

The committee had more than $2.3 million banked at the end of March, and had brought in nearly $3.6 million since it was set up to replace Lee’s now deprecated committee of continuous existence in 2013.

The move follows a Tuesday letter from Lee withdrawing the statement of solicitation tying him to the political committee, an important step if Lee is trying to avoid running afoul of federal campaign finance laws.

Solicitation withdrawals are reversible. Terminating a committee, however, is permanent. Once the decision has been made, state campaign finance rules require a committee to dispose of any leftover money in the manner outlined by the committee was created.

In the case of The Conservative, it will “contribute to candidates, political parties, political committees or other activities not prohibited by law.”

That’s a lot of money for Lee to walk away from, but he would only have been able to use it if he decided to go forward with a state-level campaign, such as his long-expected but now scrubbed plans to run for CFO.

In other words, a trade could be in the works.

If the committee cash heads to an entity that also has some spare federal dollars, such as the Republican Party of Florida, Lee may be able to see some return to his campaign account if he files for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

In any case, Lee has limited time to decide on his next move. The qualifying period for federal offices opens Monday and runs through May 4 at noon.

If he declares for CD 15, he’ll join a long list of Republicans in the primary, including former state Rep. Neil Combee and current Rep. Ross Spano, who switched over from the Attorney General race last week.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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