10 things I think I think about the latest campaign finance reports

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Political candidates and committees faced a Thursday deadline for filing campaign-finance reports for the period ending March 31. Now that all of the reports are in, here are 10 things I think I think about the latest fundraising data.

1. Smart reporters should stop Tweeting, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith did, that “Scott raises $17 mi for the quarter to Crist’s $6.” Yes, the Republican Party of Florida, the Let’s Get To Work committee, and Rick Scott’s campaign collectively raised $17 mil, but only the latter two entities’ money will all go to Scott. Much of the money raised for the RPOF is for legislative campaigns in battleground districts; think Bill Young II in House District 68. The party will invest $250,000 to $500,000 per campaign, so once you start earmarking that money for Steve Crisafulli’s needs, the $17 million isn’t as big a number as it seems.

2. How much longer will the major gambling interests active in the state — Genting, Las Vegas Sands, etc. — continue to write five- and six-figure checks to Scott and the Republican Party? In March, there was a $50,000 contribution to “Let’s Get To Work” from Bayfront 2011 Development LLC, which is a Genting company. Now that the idea of destination resort casinos is dead for another legislative session, will that $50K check go down as the last contribution Genting makes to Rick Scott? If I were Colin Au or Sheldon Adelson or any of the other gaming billionaires, I’d wait until after November before I kicked-in to Scott, who has done nothing to help on the issue. 

3. Before the fundraising numbers came in, I said to keep an eye on how much Scott and Crist raise for their campaigns, as opposed to their committees, as a sign of enthusiasm for their candidacies. Scott’s raising of $1,196,571 for his campaign vs. $585,940 for Crist‘s is actually the best news of all the fundraising news for Scott.

4. That said, one of the interesting, but not unexpected, trends that has developed in Crist’s chase for money is how apparently comfortable he is raising money in chunks of $10,000 and $25,000. I imagine Crist meets individually with these donors, talks in polite, but tough terms about why he can beat Scott, flashes a thumbs-up to the mark, and, voila, the check is written.

5. Another fundraising story I suggested keeping an eye on is whether Democrats George Sheldon and Perry Thurston can scratch together enough money for one of them to be competitive against Attorney General Pam Bondi. After looking at march’s numbers, this does not look to be developing for Sheldon or Thurston. Sheldon has less than $40,000 cash-on-hand, while Thurston has $83K left. Bondi’s campaign has nearly a million dollars in the bank, while her affiliated political committees are even more flush. The AG’s race will likely get some press, but at the end of the day the money difference keeps this race from being competitive.

6. First note about one of the congressional races …  In its first spending of the cycle, outside group State Tea Party Express is dropping almost $100,000 to support Republican Curt Clawson, according to an FEC filing Tuesday. The spending is divided between direct mail and radio, online and cable ads through the firm Strategic Media Group, according to the filing. It’s the first outside spending to bolster Clawson in the contested special election primary, which is less than two weeks away to fill ex-Rep. Trey Radel’s seat. Clawson’s been hit with more than $700,000 in outside spending by groups supporting primary opponents Paige Kreegel and Lizbeth Benacquisto. State Tea Party Express is affiliated with the larger group Tea Party Express, which endorsed Clawson.

7. Another note from the congressional level … According to Dave Levinthal at the Center for Public Integrity, Alex Sink still had $184K in her campaign coffer.

8. According to Matt Dixon of the Scripps-Tribune capital bureau, a committee controlled by incoming House speaker Steve Crisafulli is sitting on a nearly $1 million war chest. This is separate from the money Crisafulli and Co. have raised for the RPOF to use in House campaigns. Incoming Democratic leader Mark Pafford and his colleagues have nothing even close to this, just as House Democrats in battleground seats — HD 63’s Mark Danish, HD 65’s Carl Zimmermann, and HD 68’s Dwight Dudley — have struggled to raise money. Look for Republicans to win at least one of those seats, probably two, maybe even all three.

9. Speaking of battleground House races, Bill Young II posted a solid first fundraising report, bringing in approximately $51K during his first month on the trail in HD 68. Incumbent Rep. Dwight Dudley raised only $16,050 last month for his re-election bid, but has $95,443 cash-on-hand. Any incumbent under $100K at this point in the game is in trouble.

10. A GOP primary I said to keep an eye on is in HD 5. Actually I wrote that I was told that this race would be one to watch,  that Santa Rosa Realtor Jan Hooks needed to show me something for me to keep this race in that status. Well, Hooks raised less than $3K for her bid, while Brad Drake added another $16K, putting him at $229K all-told. Don’t know how much longer this race belongs in the must-watch category.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.