Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala may have been gone from Tallahassee for months now, but his political committee continues to be in play.
And that action is becoming an issue in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.
Per POLITICO Florida, Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee has moved $400,000 into four other political committees run by lobbyist David Ramba. Of that pass-through money, $25,000 of it made its way to Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley — which Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell’s campaign says helped her get “political welfare” (or public financing, as it is less pejoratively known).
Grimsley had returned $72,000 of Latvala lucre after the scandal broke. However, Caldwell is presently concerned with the ramifications of the recently revealed $25,000 drop.
“Denise already recognized it was wrong to take money from Jack Latvala by giving it charity — why has she continued to take his money? Was she hoping she could accept the contributions without anyone noticing? We cannot trust a Commissioner whose hand is always in the cookie jar when they need a personal bailout, or who will take money from anyone willing to write a check,” Caldwell asserted.
“Denise should return the money she received from Jack Latvala immediately. She should not accept his contributions and furthermore, should return the hard-earned money of Florida taxpayers — to the tune of nearly a quarter of a million dollars — and lead as a conservative. Public financing of statewide political campaigns is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a disservice to Florida’s hardworking families,” Caldwell added.
Grimsley’s campaign is dismissing Caldwell’s accusations as “dirty politics” from someone lagging in the polls.
“Is Caldwell implying earmarking and that Senator Grimsley is somehow engaging in such behavior? That would be very disappointing for him to engage in such nasty politics. We can only assume it is because she is the best candidate in the race and winning the primary, so now he is resorting to attacking her,” said Grimsley campaign spokesperson Sarah Bascom in an email to Florida Politics. “We also find it ironic that he calls on her to return campaign financing that candidates he is actively supporting have also accepted.
“Is he also going to call on all of the candidates that have accepted these funds to return them or is this just another political stunt to revive his campaign? He can’t have it both ways.”
This has been an expensive race, with all three candidates encountering name ID challenges.
Grimsley and Caldwell have each raised more than $2 million, and have over a million each on hand. Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven has invested $3 million of his own money in the race.