Florida Democrats agree to pay $43K in settlement with FEC

Donkey head close-up taken by downside
The party allegedly failed to properly report debt and excessive donations.

The Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, the governing body of the Florida Democratic Party, is agreeing to pay a $43,000 settlement with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The party faced accusations of failing to properly report its debts in the 2020 election. Additionally, records show the party accepted donations that exceeded federal limits.

A letter from the FEC details concerns with reporting by the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida. The negotiated settlement puts these matters to rest, while the officials made clear other reported violations in the future will be dealt with separately.

The party in its initial 30-day report after the 2020 General Election reported just over $62,595 in debt. But later filings in January and May revealed nearly $284,570 in additional debt that had not properly been reported.

As for the gifts, federal law prohibits political parties from accepting more than $10,000 in donations from a single contributor. But the state DEC accepted gifts adding up to more than that amount from 10 different donors.

A settlement agreement made public by the FEC shows the state party did disclose excessive donations totaling $175,200. But the documents also make clear the party discovered the errors independently and took corrective actions after the matter came to light.

In one case, donations came via $10,000 worth of reported donations from a corporate source, and then an additional $500 from the same source but given anonymously.

In another instance in 2020, the party accepted a $20,000 donation, twice the legal limit.

The party blamed errors on compliance oversights, and officials told the FEC a new compliance firm came on in late 2020 that identified the mistakes. At that point, the party voluntarily corrected its records.

This is just the latest in financial problems surrounding Florida Democrats from that time period. Following underperformance and financial issues in the 2020 election, the Florida Democratic Party saw both Chair Terrie Rizzo and Executive Director Juan Peñalosa exit.

The party had come under intense fire for applying for and receiving money through the Paycheck Protection Program. The pandemic relief program was not open to political parties and officials had to return the money.

Shortly after party leadership left after the 2020 election, it became public that the party had stopped paying many bills, including health insurance for staff. That was reinstated retroactively after new Chair Manny Diaz took over.

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].


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