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TALLAHASSEE — Coming on the heels of lackluster fundraising performances, the Republican Party of Florida got an infusion of state cash last quarter from the Pennsylvania GOP.
The money was part of a swap, with the Florida GOP giving money that is raised for and can be spent on federal races, and in return getting money that can be used for state legislative races. Campaign finance law puts a firewall between money that can be used on federal races and that which can be used for legislative races.
The $503,800 sent from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is both a nod to the fact that RPOF is in need of state money, but also a move designed to boost the amount of money it can spend on federal races headed into an election cycle with a presidential race and a campaign to fill an open U.S. Senate seat.
Campaign finance law includes a ratio that ties the amount of federal money a party can raise to the amount of state money it has in its accounts. Because the party’s state coffers are shrinking, it needed a boost in those dollars to increase the amount it can raise and spend on federal races.
The party is also trying to avoid using federal dollars for operational expenses so they can save that money for races. That's another reason it wanted to boost state coffers.
"We are pleased to report that the Party remains in a strong cash position and well ahead of the Democrats,” RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan said. “In an effort to conserve as many federal dollars as possible, we made permissible transfers with the PAGOP, which is standard practice.”
It’s a way to put a happy face on the Pennsylvania swap, but is without question a tough sign for a state party that has struggled to raise money since Blaise Ingoglia took over as chairman in January.
When removing the transfers, RPOF raised roughly $1.7 million last quarter, its worst period since the second quarter of 2009. That quarter came during dark days for the party. At the time, the state GOP was chaired by Jim Greer, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges related to his time at the party.
During the state GOP’s first fundraising quarter under Ingoglia, it raised $1.9 million, which was also considered a poor quarter. The party has continued to outpace the Florida Democratic Party, which raised just $638,010 last quarter, but with Republicans controlling the governor’s office, Legislature and Cabinet, they have a built in fundraising advantage.
RPOF faces fundraising hurdles after the state Senate and Gov. Rick Scott stopped raising money through the party. That rift was driven by Ingoglia’s defeat of former party chair Leslie Dougher, who was supported by much of the party’s establishment.
It means most of the money reported by RPOF this quarter was brought in by the House majority, the arm of the party the fundraises for GOP House races.
The separate committee set up specifically to fund Republican Senate races, known as the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, raised $2 million last quarter, and Scott raised nearly $800,000 for Let’s Get to Work, his personal political committee.
Traditionally, the committees that coordinates and raises money for Republican legislative races are housed within the state party, a sitting governor becomes one of a political party’s best fundraising weapon.
Though many traditional donors gave to both groups, the larger check was often given to the Senate committee.
U.S. Sugar gave the Senate committee nearly $180,000 compared to $100,000 for the state GOP. Duke Energy gave the Senate committee $145,000 compared to $50,000 for the party.