In the buildup to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ landslide re-election in November, he saw nearly 66,000 donations roll in from across the country. He raised nearly $171 million through his political committee alone. But not all checks were equal, and nearly half the money came from major donors making six-figure contributions.
The Friends of Ron DeSantis committee, the Governor’s primary fundraising apparatus, raised $170,926,346 to support his re-election.
That tally includes checks and donations received on dates spanning from Nov. 2, 2018 — the first day contributions would fund efforts beyond the Governor’s initial election in 2018 — to Nov. 3, 2022, the last day the committee could cash checks and spend them to support DeSantis’ re-election this year.
Since DeSantis’ official candidate account could only receive individual donations up to $3,000, megadonors turned to the Governor’s PC to offer more significant support.
A total of 300 checks were reported for amounts of $100,000 or more. That made up $82,339,566 of the political committee’s war chest. There were seven donors who gave more than $1 million toward DeSantis’ re-election.
The biggest donor to the campaign was the Republican Governors Association, which spent $20,950,000 propping up one of the nation’s most prominent Governors. That national group is dedicated to electing Republicans to lead state governments and provided plenty of support.
That may have been justified considering DeSantis won election in 2018 by just 32,463 votes. But notably, DeSantis coasted to a second term with a 1,507,897-vote margin of victory.
Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, proved to be DeSantis’ biggest individual donor. He gave $10 million in July. Bigelow’s enthusiasm as a believer in extraterrestrial life garnered significant interest in his political spending this year. Of course, he’s also heavily invested in the space industry, and Florida serves as home to the nation’s major spaceport, Kennedy Space Center.
Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company has developed expandable habitats for use on other planetary bodies such as the moon or Mars. Bigelow has launched two subscale spacecraft, Genesis I and II, into orbit. He also developed the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, which has been attached to the Tranquility module of the International Space Station.
Hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin donated $5 million to DeSantis. The majority owner of Citadel announced earlier this year he is relocating America’s largest hedge fund from Chicago to Miami. That has been heralded as a transformational development for South Florida. He dropped his eight-figure check in DeSantis’ coffers in April 2021, setting the tone early for the massive fundraising by the Governor this cycle.
The Club For Growth PAC, a major financial force in conservative politics, gave $2 million to DeSantis in August this year.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida also gave $2 million as it grows its influence in Tallahassee. The Native American tribe has become a gambling goliath in the state, and also owns the Hard Rock brand used on casino hotels and restaurants. As gaming language rose repeatedly as a political issue in the last decade, Seminole giving has grown in force.
DeSantis proved to be a safe bet this election cycle. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino notably also made an in-kind donation worth nearly $20,000 for event space and food for an Oct. 25 event.
Walter Buckley Jr., a philanthropist and political megadonor now living in Palm Beach County, gave DeSantis $1.25 million. The Washington Post recently reported Buckley and wife Marjorie are among the top 50 political donors in the country. He made his contributions to DeSantis in three installments over two years.
Finally, David MacNeil, CEO of WeatherTech, donated just over $1.1 million to DeSantis campaign over five installments starting in May 2021. The auto accessory manufacturer in June purchased a condo at the Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale. That was two years after he purchased a $21-million estate in Wellington.