Ron DeSantis hits seven-day spending record, holds 21 times more cash than Charlie Crist

Crist_Desantis side_by_side (3)
Billionaires, builders and business bigwigs turned out in droves for America's youngest Governor in the last week of September.

Gov. Ron DeSantis put further financial distance between himself and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in the last week of September, when he amassed $5.9 million thanks to massive infusions from the GOP, Seminole Tribe, and a passel of deep-pocketed donors in and out of Florida.

DeSantis also spent $10.2 million — the most so far in a single seven-day stretch this election cycle — primarily on in-party kickbacks and a robust advertising push.

By Oct. 1, the Republican Governor still held close to $105.9 million between his campaign account and political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.

Crist, meanwhile, held a comparatively paltry $4.9 million.

Deep pockets and noteworthy names

More than half of DeSantis’ gains from Sept. 24-30 — a $3 million donation — came from the Republican Governors Association, of which he is the youngest title member and its biggest beneficiary this year. Through the first half of 2022, DeSantis received 1 of every 4 dollars spent by the Washington-based organization.

Further assistance — more than $220,000 worth — came through in-kind contributions from the Republican Party of Florida for staff, travel, consulting and software subscriptions.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, fighting alongside the state to defend their five-year, $2.5 billion gambling compact, gave DeSantis $1 million.

Around 4,000 people wrote checks to DeSantis, many for $10 or less. A score of individual donors gave 1,000 times that or more.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Jones II gave the most, writing DeSantis a personal check for $325,000. The second-largest sum, $200,000, came from former Illinois Gov. Bruce Ruaner, who listed a Key Largo address on DeSantis’ ledger.

Billionaire St. Petersburg resident Todd Wanek, president of Ashley Furniture, gave $75,000. Texas oil mogul Syed Javaid Anwar, Illinois-based dental executive Richard Workman, and Full Sail University CEO James Heavener of Winter Park, whom DeSantis appointed to the University of Florida Board of Trustees, donated $50,000 each.

Thirty-year-old virtual reality entrepreneur Palmer Luckey, Atlanta-based finance executive David Hanna, billionaire New Jersey banker Vernon Hill II, California-based real estate developer John Hagestad and Donald Leeburn III, president of alcohol supplier Georgia Crown Distributing Co., chipped in $25,000 apiece.

DeSantis also received $20,000 from Hobe Sound-based artist Kathleen Wallace, Naples-based finance executive and film producer Nicholas Gialamas and Gerald Buchheit, an executive with New York-based construction company Accent Stripe.

Real estate bucks, etc.

Real estate companies turned out in droves to support DeSantis at the end of last month. Daytona-based custom homebuilder ICI Homes delivered his largest donation from the sector, a $100,000 check. Georgia-headquartered construction service provider JDS Inc. contributed $25,000.

Daytona Beach-based Ritchey Properties and Ghyabi Consulting & Management, an engineering firm in Ormond Beach, each gave $10,000.

PHQ Group Design, Tampa Steel Erecting Co., Coleman Goodemote Construction, OCI Associates, Basham & Lucas Design Group, Houseman Architecture, Prosser Inc., and Jobalia Consulting Group — all in Florida — and New Jersey-based ikon. five architects all donated between $2,000 and $5,000.

Several other industries also showed up, including those catering to vices like alcohol and tobacco.

Miami-based Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the most extensive wine and spirits distributor in the country, donated $50,000.

Altria Client Services LLC, a Virginia-headquartered subsidiary of the company formerly known as Philip Morris, gave $3,000. Beer distributor Daytona Beverages, which has served Volusia and Flagler counties since the mid-90s, gave $2,000.

Another $50,000 check came from Deerfield Beach-based auto dealer Jim Moran & Associates. TT of Flagler Inc., a car seller in West Palm Beach, gave one-tenth that sum.

Banking and insurance businesses contributed too. Deerfield Beach-based Fidelity Insurance Agency delivered a $20,000 check to DeSantis’ political committee. The Bank of Tampa gave more than $18,000.

The Thompson Group in Georgia, an affiliate of Illinois-headquartered insurance giant Allstate, donated $5,000.

Other noteworthy donations included $25,000 from a political committee linked to Associated Industries of Florida — which derives more than 80% of its funding from just six companies, including sugar growers, for-profit hospital operator HCA Healthcare and utility giant Florida Power & Light — $10,000 from Texas-based chemical manufacturer Huntsman Corp., and $3,000 apiece from a pair of firefighter unions in Orlando and Tamarac.

Big spender, team player

DeSantis’ reached a spending record this cycle Sept. 24-30, though most of the money was looped back into GOP establishment coffers. During the week, the Governor’s political committee recorded two contributions totaling $8.9 million to the Republican Party of Florida.

The remaining $1.3 million he spent essentially went to advertising. He paid $500,000 to Ohio-based strategy firm FlexPoint Media for “media placement.” Another $335,000 went to The Lukens Company, a Virginia-based marketing company, to pay postage costs on campaign mailers.

DeSantis spent another $146,000 on added mailer costs, paying five-figure sums to Virginia companies RST Marketing Associates and America Direct Inc. and Port Orange, Florida-based businesses Response America and Capital Hill Lists.

His ledger includes nearly $84,000 paid to Ace Specialties. He also spent more than $178,000 on fundraising expenses, including fundraising consulting; $96,000 on campaign materials, clothing, and signage; and $14,000 on ad production.

The remainder covered general campaign upkeep costs, including staff pay, food, supplies, transportation and donation processing fees.

An uphill battle

Where DeSantis has taken a more blended approach to fundraising, tapping corporate and organizational donors while at the same time welcoming a deluge of personal checks, Crist — whose list of past jobs includes Governor, Congressman, Attorney General and Education Commissioner — depended more on grassroots gains in recent months.

That included the week of Sept. 24-30, when more than 16,000 people donated to Crist’s campaign account and political committee, Friends of Charlie Crist, with checks ranging from $1 to $25,000 from author, motivational speaker and New Age entrepreneur Alan Michael Singer of Alachua.

Crist also accepted $5,000 checks from Golden Beach financial investor Chandan Mathur, Southwest Ranches-based real estate investor and rehab facility founder Khalid Mirza and lawyer-turned-education nonprofit president Hank Libby, among others.

Like his opponent, Crist’s most significant single donation came from a national gubernatorial group. The Democratic Governors Association, chaired by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, gave him $685,000 on the last day of the month.

He also received a boost from Florida’s matching funds program, which provides candidates who voluntarily enroll with matches to contributions from state residents of $250. The program is open only to candidates for Governor or Cabinet positions.

In the last week of September, Crist received more than $450,000 through the program, which both he and DeSantis are tapping this cycle.

Lawyers and unions

A lawyer by training who has been a member in good standing with the Florida Bar since 1983, Crist got some help late last month from fellow lawyers. None donated more than Coral Gables law firm Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, which gave $50,000.

Palm Beach Gardens firm Dominick Cunningham & Whalen kicked in $25,000. So did Lytal Reiter Smith Ivey & Fronrath of West Palm Beach. Two of the firm’s partners, Lake Lytal and Joseph Reiter, gave checks of $5,000 and $1,000, respectively.

Gainesville firm Avera & Smith — which earlier this year brought to light details of a potential cover-up involving a 2019 roadway crash in which a drunken corrections officer killed a Florida State Prison nurse — donated $10,000.

Union dollars came in too. Two Washington-headquartered organizations — the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union — both gave $25,000.

Local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Service Employees International Union donated $5,000 and $3,000, respectively.

Light spender, team player

Crist spent just $801,000 Sept. 24-30. And again, as DeSantis did, more than half the money Crist paid went to his party.

His expenditures ledger shows $450,000 worth of contributions to the Democratic Executive Committee in Tallahassee that week alone. Throughout his campaign this cycle, he’s given the organization more than $5.5 million.

Aside from $52,500 worth of payments to Washington-based polling firm GBAO, the remainder of Crist’s meaningful spending covered advertising and signage costs.

He paid $100,000 to the Democratic firm Grassroots Analytics Campaigns for media buys. Another $50,000 went to Rising Tide Interactive for the same purpose. Both firms are headquartered in Washington.

Crist also spent roughly $23,000 on printing, $4,000 on design services from California graphic designer Karena Meyer and $100 to boost a post or run an ad on Facebook.

What was left was paid for general campaign upkeep, lodging, event sponsorships, donation processing fees, subscription costs and insurance.

Crist had no in-kind help the last week of September. Since winning the Primary Election on Aug. 23, he’s received $10,000 worth of it — roughly a fourth of all such help since announcing his bid for Governor in May 2021.

The General Election is on Nov. 8. Early voting begins as early as 15 days beforehand.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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