Politics

Florida's CFO, Ag Commissioner Each Took More Than $400,000 in Public Money to Finance Campaigns

Florida's public campaign financing laws mean that candidates for governor and the three cabinet offices can qualify to have any donations of $250 or less matched by public money with a few caveats.

Charlie Crist received about $2.4 million in public financing during his run against mega-loaded Rick Scott. Attorney General Pam Bondi received $328,000 in her matchup against Democrat George Sheldon, who in turn received $300,000.

But Republican CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam each received more than $400,000 in public financing even though both were running against no-name Democrats who never had a chance of winning.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Atwater took $420,000, while Putnam took about $460,000.

Atwater went on to beat Democrat William "Will" Rankin by nearly 19 points. Putnam likewise beat Thaddeus "Thad" Hamilton by about 18 and a half points. These were landslide victories that were never in doubt.

So some are wondering why supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans basically wasted a combined $880,000 in public money to, in part, flood the airwaves with ads in the last days of their campaign.

The system of giving candidates taxpayer support was supposed to make campaigns more competitive for underdogs who had the support of people who couldn't afford to shell out more than $250 in donations.

Of course, we suspect we'll see more of Atwater and Putnam in Florida politics. Both are talked about as potentially running for governor in 2018, so one has to wonder if they were using the money not to ensure already guaranteed victories, but rather to help extend their name recognition with Florida voters.

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Kyle Munzenrieder