In Florida politics, the rich candidates get richer with the help of public financing.
Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News reports that the three Republican incumbent members of the Florida Cabinet — CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — got a nearly $1 million, taxpayer-financed boost Friday to their already large campaign war chests.
Unlike most other regulations governing political money, the requirements to receive public financing are relative straightforward. If a candidate agree to limit their overall spending — this year the cap is $25 million — the state matches contributions up to $250. Contributions above that amount still receive a $250 match.
This week’s mail will bring $351, 113 to Putnam, $332,285 to Atwater, and $265,440 to Bondi.
Putnam and Atwater are running against tomato cans and are in absolutely no danger of losing their elections. Why these two fiscal conservatives would accept public campaign financing — even if they are entitled to it — is a good question.
(Putnam’s spokesman told Dixon the former congressman doesn’t support the taxpayer-financing policy, but it “would be absurd” to turn down the money, while Atwater’s spokesman Brian Hughes remarked that the public financing system “is a direct reflection of the diverse and large base of support” for Atwater.)
But that’s not the best joke about this system. What’s really funny is that Bondi — who has raised nearly $1.5 million for her re-election bid and is also is closely aligned with two political committees that have combined to raise a total of more than $1.75 million — received from the state of Florida a check for $265K, which is actually larger than what one of her chief Democratic opponents, House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, has raised for his ENTIRE campaign ($169,859). It’s almost as much as the $285,861 George Sheldon has raised to-date for his campaign.
In other words, the public campaign system designed to level the playing field between well-financed candidates and those which are not just unbalanced the playing field between Bondi and her two Democratic rivals like no check from a special interest could do.
In fact, one could argue that the “special interest” most invest in Bondi’s campaign is a do-gooder government program that’s doing the opposite of what was intended.