Pandemic shuts down fundraising for statewide initiatives

Broken piggy bank with coins money isolated on white background, close-up
Pandemics don't inspire donors.

The campaigns behind three of four citizen initiatives appearing on Florida’s 2020 ballot failed in March to raise a dollar.

It’s another sign of how a global pandemic is upending traditional campaigning in Florida.

Keep Our Constitution Clean reported no contributions or expenditures in March. It should have been a productive month for the effort, after the Florida Supreme Court in February signed off on ballot language for the constitutional amendment.

The proposed change to Florida’s constitution ironically aims to make it harder to change Florida’s constitution. Should more than 60% of voters approve the amendment, future amendments would require a two-thirds vote to pass.

The political committee behind the measure had an active year up until March, raising $15,000 in January and $7,500 in February. The group began the second quarter with $7,976 in cash on hand. Notably the group, while raising $165,500 since its February 2019 inception, has relied largely on in-kind support from various supporting organizations. More than $8.8 million worth of in-kind services have been reported by the committee, though none in March.

“Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee was created for the purpose of placing an amendment on the ballot that will give voters more information and more control over Florida’s Constitutional Amendment process,” said Jason Zimmerman, counsel for the organization.

”We think the Pass It Twice initiative would give Florida voters a critical tool to accomplish both of these objectives, and we have no doubt that voters will agree.  While we succeeded in placing the question on the ballot, we are not currently raising money for the purposes of running a campaign to pass the amendment.”

Two other groups that didn’t raise funds in March haven’t seen many checks come in all year.

All Voters Vote, which supports canceling Florida’s closed primary system to a top two runoff, has been cleared for the 2020 ballot in March.

The group, though, said the lapse in fundraising had more to do with waiting for a court decision, which didn’t come down until late March.

“[All Voters Vote] were awaiting the ruling from the FSC before we engaged in any further fundraising,” said  Glenn Burhans, All Voters Vote chair. “We are not at liberty to disclose our fundraising or any other strategies ahead of the election except to say we will communicate a winning message to voters that Amendment 3 will ensure that all voters get the chance to vote in taxpayer funded elections.”

All Voters Vote hasn’t reported any donations — and barely $5 in expenditures — since the start of 2020. That was after raising $180,000 over the last three quarters of 2019. With a court fight wrapped and no donations in the first quarter of the year, All Voters Vote started April with $34 in cash.

Florida Citizen Voters, which wants a citizenship requirement for voting to be part of the state constitution, hasn’t reported a positive fundraising month since June. In March, the only financial activity reported was a $3 bank fee.

“It really is an unknown world right now. No one knows how this will impact campaigns,” John Loudon, the leader of Florida Citizen Voters. “We’re confident the support for Amendment 1 is extremely high and will remain so. We remain confident of a strong victory to clarify and codify Florida’s constitution to ensure every voter in Florida is a citizen.”

The measure has gathered enough signatures to make the ballot.

The only campaign to report even modest fundraising in support of 2020 citizen initiative was Florida For A Fair Wage, which raised just over $3,500 in March.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


One comment

  • StayTheCourse

    April 20, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    This may not be so bad, since Florida lately has been passing initiatives that are surely not good for the State.

    Initiatives are just not on most people’s minds or on their donation lists, during this pandemic.

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