House votes to end public campaign finance for statewide candidates
Image via Florida House.

Public contributions get bigger every cycle.

The House approved by a 100-15 margin Wednesday a Constitutional amendment that seeks to end the public campaign-financing system available to political candidates.

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

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 increased.

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 took the money and won.

The 2018 sum of matching dollars more than doubled 2014.

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.

Democratic Rep. Joe Geller defended the system, saying the money insulated candidates from being unduly influenced by “special interests.”

Geller’s fellow Democrat, Rep. Carlos Smith, was “torn” about the bill, saying that the bill represented capitulation to “Citizens United, corporate interests, and giant contributions” that skew the process.

Aloupis, in closing, stuck to his guns, opposing general revenue money going to statewide campaigns that “are already overfunded.”

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.

Wednesday’s vote was part of a trio of proposals. Along with the campaign financing proposal, the measures would provide a property-tax discount for spouses of deceased military veterans and add duties for the state chief financial officer.

If approved by the Legislature, they would need voter ratification in November because they are proposed constitutional amendments.


Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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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