The end of public campaign finance? Senate approves referendum to repeal standing law
A Primary challenge forces Travis Hutson to open his wallet.

Voters may get to repeal a provision ceding matching funds for candidates that agree to hard money spending limits.

Voters may soon decide whether to end a program providing matching state funds for candidates that agree to spending limits.

The Senate approved by a 28-11 vote a measure approving a ballot referendum asking voters to weigh in on repealing the Florida Election Campaign Financing Act (FECFA). Accessing that pot of money is one way that candidates who aren’t wealthy can get a leg up to make their cases to the voters.

Sen. Travis Hutson’s measure (SJR 1114) would, if passed, let voters this year decide in a referendum whether they want to end the provision that has been in effect since the Legislature passed it in 1986 — an era in which Florida and its campaign finance looked very different from the way they do today in some ways, but nonetheless saw some dynamics familiar to people of today.

Hutson is a scion of a land development family whose last reported personal net worth was north of $16 million.

“The Legislature finds that the costs of running an effective campaign for statewide office have reached a level which tends to discourage persons from becoming candidates and to limit the persons who run for such office to those who are independently wealthy, who are supported by political committees representing special interests which are able to generate substantial campaign contributions, or who must appeal to special interest groups for campaign contributions,” reads the language currently in Statute.

Hutson noted that roughly $13 million was spent in 2022 and $10 million in 2018 in explaining the bill, suggesting there’s a “better use for taxpayer dollars” than the “exponentially growing” matching funds program such as “water projects” or “teacher pay” or “pensions for state employees.”

In 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis got $7.3 million from this formula, while challenger Charlie Crist got $3.8 million, which Hutson correctly said “is almost 2 to 1 for the Governor.”

He noted that “both sides of the aisle get money from special interest groups” in a further argument against the status quo, adding that the money is a “drop in the bucket.”

Matching funds currently are contingent on caps from personal wealth or that of political parties. Those accepting money must spend less than $25,000 of their own money, with a $250,000 aggregate cap on contributions from a political party’s national, state and county executive committees.

As we’ve seen though, political action committees have demonstrated an outsized influence with soft money that often has turned out to be very portable, as illustrated by DeSantis transferring more than $80 million of unused committee cash to a national super PAC supporting his presidential campaign after his re-election bid.

Voters had a chance to weigh in on this in 2010, noted Democratic Sen. Tracie Davis. The sponsor said the allocations have “doubled” since then, which he believes strengthens the case for repeal.

Hutson’s SB 1116 also passed with 28 “yes” votes. That is an implementing bill for the amendment if passed, repealing sections relevant to the FECFA on the effective date of the amendment.

Identical House bills for both measures are on the Second Reading Calendar, suggesting that this indeed may be the year when Republicans finally get their long-desired changes to how campaigns have been run for decades.

But voters will still get a say in deciding whether to unravel longstanding fixes to a system that people worried was dominated by money and special interests decades ago.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • JD

    February 28, 2024 at 7:11 pm

    This needs to be the other way. Only $x can be used from this public coffers and no other media buys from “friends of” entities.

    Down with all PAC and SuperPACs

  • Aaaaaand there it is. The end, folks.

    February 29, 2024 at 4:52 am

    The state of Florida would greatly benefit if TH were to suddenly leave office. Just so we’re clear, he’s saying no one but the rich cronies can afford (or deserves) to run for office anyway, and they’re already bought and paid for by whatever PACs and special interests that have nothing to do with public good, so let’s just let them have it their way and close the lanes, and in exchange we”ll give $0.11 more cents to teachers. And the people said Amen. #Floridadoesntlivehereanymore

Comments are closed.


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