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Matching funds gave boost to statewide winners

With candidates setting a record this year for pulling in matching funds, Florida taxpayers contributed $4.2 million to the winning campaigns for Governor and three Cabinet seats, according to the final totals for the 2018 elections.

Another $5.65 million in tax dollars went to the campaigns of six unsuccessful statewide candidates, according to numbers posted Friday by the Florida Division of Elections.

Overall matching funds totaled $9,852,606, more than double the $4.34 million from the last midterm election in 2014 and easily topping the nearly $6.07 million in 2010.

Disparaged by critics as welfare for politicians, the program was approved by voters in 1998 as part of a constitutional amendment proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. It provides matches for individual contributions of $250 or less to statewide candidates’ campaigns.

Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis was the biggest recipient of the funds this year, receiving nearly $3.23 million, including $557,554 that rolled in after voters cast their ballots but as campaign finance reports continued to be submitted and individual contributions verified.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum received $2.62 million from the program, including $254,381 after the Nov. 6 election.

DeSantis and Gillum, whose campaigns and political committees collectively spent more than $99 million, each received more matching funds than any other candidate during a single election cycle in the program’s history.

Florida’s next Attorney General, Republican Ashley Moody, drew $478,903 from the matching-funds program, including $29,266 after the election.

In her victory over Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw, Moody spent $8.8 million through her personal account and the political committee Friends of Ashley Moody.

Shaw, who spent an overall total of $4.2 million through his campaign account and political committee, received $365,591 from the matching-funds program.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who won a four-year term Nov. 6 after being appointed to the Cabinet post last year, received $334,604 from the matching-funds program. Patronis got a pair of checks after the election worth a combined $6,225.

Overall during the campaign, Patronis spent $6.8 million through his personal account and the political committee Treasure Florida in defeating Democrat Jeremy Ring. Ring, who didn’t participate in the matching-funds program, spent a total of $1.6 million through his campaign account and a political committee.

Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, the only Democrat in line to win a statewide post, got $158,507 from the matching-funds program. That included $40,880 after the ballots were cast.

Fried, through her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First, spent a little more than $2 million in narrowly defeating Republican Matt Caldwell.

Caldwell, a critic of the program who didn’t take matching funds, spent nearly $5.5 million through his campaign and a political committee in this year’s election.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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