Ron DeSantis super PAC fundraising slowed significantly after he formally launched his campaign

The super PAC has money, but most of it was raised months ago.

The Never Back Down super PAC launched months before Ron DeSantis filed for President and laid infrastructure for a run. But since the Florida Governor officially jumped in the race, the outside group has raised a roughly equivalent amount to DeSantis’ official campaign.

That’s despite super PACs’ ability to raise unlimited amounts from contributors. Federal candidates face contribution limits of $3,300 per election when it comes to support for their own campaigns.

Federal Election Commission filings released Monday night show Never Back Down collected almost $130.6 million since its launch in late February. As of the end of June, the super PAC reported almost $97 million in the bank.

The vast majority of fundraising, though, occurred before DeSantis formally launched his presidential campaign on May 24. And more than half the money raised by Never Back Down was actually raised by another entity, a state committee originally formed in 2018.

Fundraising disclosures show a transfer of $82.5 million from a Florida political committee that supported DeSantis’ campaigns for Governor. Friends of Ron DeSantis changed its name to Empower Parents PAC in mid-May before disbanding on May 30. The transfer to Never Back Down took place on May 31.

By the time DeSantis entered the presidential campaign, that state committee had stopped taking in any contributions. It cashed its last checks on May 9. That means the entirety of the funds transferred to Never Back Down were raised weeks or months prior to the campaign launch.

The super PAC openly supported DeSantis’ ambitions well before the Governor entered the race, producing national ads and mailers as early as April that promoted the Florida Republican.

Fundraising for Never Back Down kicked off on Feb. 28 with a $1 million donation from Stefan Brodie, co-founder of Pennsylvania resin manufacturer Purolite.

The biggest donation to date came on March 30, when Nevada hotel magnate Robert Bigelow gave a little more than $20 million to the super PAC. Bigelow notably also gave $10 million to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the state committee, in July 2022.

Never Back Down raised nearly $29.5 million before May 24, the day DeSantis formally opened his own campaign account with the Federal Election Commission. More than two-thirds of that came from Bigelow.

Most of that early money came in amounts of six figures or greater. U-Line founders Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein both wrote checks for $1 million in April and May, respectively.

Venture capitalist Douglas Leone gave $2 million in mid-April. Standard Industries CEO David Millstone gave $1 million the same day.

While the bulk of financial support to the super PAC landed before DeSantis’ launch, the organization continued to raise millions since then, and from a larger number of sources. Out of 191 individual donations to the campaign, 156 were made on May 24 or after.

That includes some large donations. Brodie in June kicked in another $1 million in support. Several companies tied to Jacksonville builder Mori Hosseini donated $1 million on June 1.

In late June, Faith & Strong Policies, an entity led by Miami Beach lawyer Scott Wagner, gave $5 million to the super PAC, and kicked in another $500,000 a week later.

But excluding the transfer from the state committee, just under $20.1 million was donated to the super PAC between the May 24 campaign launch and the end of June.

DeSantis in that time period was able to start raising money directly for his campaign. He collected $19.7 million in the first six weeks of the campaign. That’s almost as much as the super PAC raised in new money over the same period.

Never Back Down still has far more cash available than the DeSantis campaign, holding $98.8 million compared to $12.2 million for the official campaign. But the independent group isn’t raising money any quicker lately despite fundraising under much more lax campaign finance laws.

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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