For more than eight years since he concluded his tenure as Senate President, Mike Haridopolos has been using a zombie federal campaign fund to support his political interests, while also serving as a legislative lobbyist.
While he was in his final term in the state Senate, Haridopolos filed to run for the U.S. Senate in early 2011. By August Haridopolos had raised more than $3.5 million for a Senate run, but he withdrew.
Haridopolos, of Indian Harbour Beach, spent four years in the Florida House and eight in the Senate, the last two, through 2012, as President. Since then he’s been lobbying through his own Tallahassee firm, MJH Consulting. His clients include various Space Coast cities, health care, agriculture interests and a jail services provider.
The $3.5 million his federal campaign committee Friends of Mike H collected while Haridopolos was a federal candidate has since become a kitty for his support for other Republican candidates and Republican political committees.
He did not respond to inquiries from Florida Politics to talk about his campaign fund.
Recipients include political committees supporting Republican Sens. Ben Albritton, who chairs the Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee; Aaron Bean, who chairs the Senate health care appropriations subcommittee; and Keith Perry, who chairs the Senate criminal justice appropriations subcommittee.
Friends of Mike H has steadily dolled out more than $1 million to state lawmakers’ independent political committees, the Republican Party of Florida, and other state, federal, and Republican committees, usually in four-figure checks.
Some of the money has come like clockwork in the weeks leading up to each Legislative Session. This year, Friends for Mike H donated $29,000 to political committees supporting Perry, Bean, Republican Reps. Clay Yarborough, Fred Hawkins, Tyler Sirois, and others.
It is common for former state lawmakers and state office holders set up political committees to continue their influence, sometimes as lobbyists, long after they leave elected office.
It also is not unusual for federal candidates to stop campaigning and be left with so-called “zombie” federal campaign funds, which were set up for runs, then left with hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars left over after the candidate withdrew or lost.
Haridopolos has combined those phenomena, using a zombie federal campaign to support his influence as a lobbyist.
To be clear, Friends of Mike H has been more generous to other federal candidates and committees than to members of the State Legislature. Records show it has donated about $464,000 to various Florida campaigns and political committees and about $602,000 to federal campaigns and committees.
Haridopolos’ use of his federal committee to support political interests might end soon. His committee is running out of money.
More than $1 million of the U.S. Senate contributions that Haridopolos received in 2011 were refunded to donors after he decided to withdraw. The actual 2011 U.S. Senate campaign, then various maintenance costs of the committee over the nine years since, have run about $1.3 million.
Since Haridopolos dropped out of the U.S. Senate race in August, 2011, the committee has donated more than $1 million to other candidates and political committees.
And the committee hasn’t really raised any money since 2011.
So Friends of Mike H has about $111,000 left, as of the latest Federal Election Commission report through March 31.
The biggest beneficiaries of Haridopolos’ aborted U.S. Senate campaign, in total dollars donated since 2012, include:
— $200,000 for America Takes Action, a Super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump
— $89,000 for Floridians for Responsible Government, a state political committee run by former Palm Bay City Councilman Tres Holton
— $77,000 for the Republican Party of Florida
— $60,000 for the Republican Governors Association
— $50,000 for the Liberty Leadership Fund
— $35,000 for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee
— $25,000 apiece for the American Action Network, and Friends of Ron DeSantis, supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis
— $20,000 for Reclaim America, supporting Sen. Marco Rubio
— $18,000 for Friends of Bill Posey, supporting Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge
— $15,000 for Advancing Florida Agriculture, supporting Albritton
— $14,000 for Friends of Ashley Moody, supporting Attorney General Ashley Moody
— $10,000 for the Senate Georgia Battleground Fund
In 2011, Friends of Mike H collected more than 2,000 donations from more than 1,600 unique contributors for his U.S. Senate campaign. More than 460 of those donations were refunded. Since then, bank interest has been the principal source of revenue for the fund.