House cues up vote to end public financing of statewide candidates

political money (Large)
Voters will ultimately decide.

The House set up for a floor vote a Constitutional amendment that seeks to end the public campaign-financing system available to statewide political candidates.

The current system allows candidates for statewide office to receive public matching dollars for individual contributions for $250 or less.

The Rep. Vance Aloupis bill (HJR 1325) seeks “the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution which requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.”

The provision, enacted in 1998, has persisted even as the money in campaigns has gotten bigger and bigger.

Aloupis noted that legislation had gone back to 1986 for matching funds. A trust fund was exhausted by 1996, requiring the amendment … which got just 52.5% last time voters considered it.

News Service of Florida noted that almost $10 million in matching funds went to candidates in the 2018 cycle.

$4.2 million went to the winning candidates in the three Cabinet races and the race for Governor. An additional $5.6 million in matching funds went to the losers.

Most candidates accepted the funding. Though a Republican Attorney General candidate who was able to self-finance made noise about refusing the money, it didn’t resonate with voters, as Ashley Moody did take the money and won.

This sum more than doubled 2014’s matching funds.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum took in nearly $6 million in combined matching funds, Aloupis noted.

That money came from general revenue.

Though it was a small fraction of the over $110 million the two raised between campaign accounts and political committees (and never mind the soft money from parties and third party groups), the irony of deep pocketed candidates having a taxpayer funded slush fund resonates, just a bit.

The 1990 gubernatorial election, by contrast, cost $15 million all in, Aloupis said.

“Is it the best use of the finite general revenue funds we have to subsidize overfunded elections,” Aloupis asked, seemingly rhetorically.

Rep. Joe Geller took a contrarian posture, urging reform. However, Aloupis contended that general revenue dollars should not subsidize these campaigns.

Rep. Carlos Smith wondered if the bill would give special interests more power.

The Senate version of this bill, SB 1110, died in the Judiciary Committee; however, the Senate can take up the House version.

The House version cleared all three committees of reference without a single no vote.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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