TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If an election is a war, then money is ammunition. Right now, the major candidates who are running for governor are stocking up. But it’s where, and who, the cash is coming from that is just revealing as the amount.
ABC Action News's Paul LaGrone dug into campaign finance reports for all three major gubernatorial candidates: Governor Ron DeSantis, Congressman Charlie Crist, and Commissioner Nikki Fried. He followed the money, looking for the truth.
LONG HOT SUMMER
As the Governor’s race starts to simmer like a Florida parking lot in July, the major candidates are raking in the campaign cash. Campaign finance reports for the Governor’s Political PAC, “Friends of Ron DeSantis, show DeSantis is the king of the campaign dollar.
The governor’s biggest money month so far this year has been April when records show his PAC raised $14,000,000 million dollars. Over the summer, the cash has continued to roll in.
In June the Governor pulled in $5,500,000 million dollars. July saw another $4,200,000 million dollars added while August reports say $5.5 million hit the bank. In September, DeSantis raked in more than $5.6 million giving him a total of more than $51 million for the year.
Meanwhile, Democrat Congressman and former Florida Governor, Charlie Crist, has his own friends, they’re just not quite as giving or rich. In fact, his PAC is called “Friends of Charlie Crist.”
Crist comes in a very distant second, compared to the Incumbent Governor DeSantis. Crist has raised around $2,300,000 million dollars since he filed to run in May. August was his hottest month, bringing in $327,000. September’s numbers are just in, 306,000 thousand dollars. July registered $235,000 thousand and June, $153,000.
And then there’s Nikki Fried. She would be Florida’s first female governor. Her PAC is called “Florida Consumers First.” She’s raised over $1,800,000 million dollars in 2021. June has been her biggest month so far at $413,000. In July, she raised $197,000 and in August she pulled in $217,000. Finally, in September, she raised $195,000.
CA$H IN CONTEXT
USF Political Science Professor Edwin Benton said money may not win the race, but it keeps the candidates in the game.
“Money is the life’s milk of politics,” said Professor Benton. “Money feeds your campaign and allows you to stay in the campaign…keeps your campaign alive and money buys media exposure.”
There's also interest in where the money is coming from and who’s giving it.
For Crist, his top donors are mostly attorneys. He’s drawing in donations mostly from Florida, but he also has donors contributing from New York, California, and even as far away as Hawaii.
Fried is getting a lot of money from a variety of political committees representing different interests. Overwhelmingly, her money is homegrown, coming from Florida-based donors.
And then there’s Governor DeSantis. His donors are far and wide and have deep pockets. His top donor is a Chicago-based hedge fund billionaire who invested heavily in the pharmaceutical company Regeneron, which sells the monoclonal antibody treatment that the governor has been promoting.
And increasingly, the Governor has been raising money out of state, even holding a campaign dinner last month. Not in Florida, but in Buffalo, New York.
Political journalist Haley Brown has been reporting on the governor’s fundraising activities this year.
“Governor DeSantis has been going to other states since the beginning of this year and it coincided with the rise in his national profile,” said Brown. “This governor’s presence on the national political stage is unrivaled at this point."
So how much money would one need to win the governor's chair?
"Your question is how much are willing to pay to be in political power? A lot!" Brown said. "And apparently, people outside the state are also willing to pay to have a little stake in Florida’s political power which is probably the most interesting part for me is that there’s so much money coming in from out of state."
Brown continued, "Because there’s so many people that aren’t even Floridians that want to have a say in the way Florida’s Gubernatorial election turns out. You have high-dollar donors out of state putting their finger on the scale giving him a leg up to make sure he remains governor for another term."