In conjunction with Florida’s new election laws, the Florida Division of Elections posted the campaign finances of officeholders who solicit or accept contributions from organizations.
According to Susan Gill, supervisor of elections for Citrus County, the Florida Legislature passed election laws requiring candidates to disclose their campaign’s financial reports on a monthly basis. The new law will eventually require a bi-weekly disclosure of these documents closer to the election date.
With the 2014 general elections approaching, the public is able to access the leading contributions and expenditures North Florida candidates have amassed so far.
Here’s a look at some of the campaign finance records of the current candidates:
- State Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-District 18,) who serves Hernando, Sumter and Pasco counties, tops the list with about $252,000 from 560 contributors. His 31-expenditure transactions total just under $33,000. Twelve of those transactions — totaling about $12,000 — are to Tallahassee consulting firm Front Line Strategies. Simpson is currently running unopposed.
- State Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-District 8) in Marion, Volusia and Lake counties has received nearly $178,000 from 427 contributors and spent $17,900 on hotel charges at the luxurious Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL; luncheon fees, shipping costs, meals and food, and campaign work.
- In Hernando County, Blaise Ingoglia (R-District 35) grossed about $111,220 in contributions from 352 donations. The smallest contribution came from Facebook at $0.55. Ingoglia’s largest contribution came from himself at about $37,650. His expenditures are low in comparison to his contribution intake — $11,703 from 64 transactions. Still, 34 of the 64 transactions paid about $400 to Piryx, Inc. for fees to process credit card contributions. Notable expenditures also include about $232 for postage from USPS and $130 for fast food at Chik-fil-A.
- State Sen. John Thrasher (R-District 6) serving Putnam and Volusia counties, follows his colleague with 219 contributions for $107,000. His expenses are also the highest at $34,000, and are comprised mostly of consulting fees, accounting services and event sponsorship. During the 2012 race, Thrasher raised $546,565 by October 2012 in his race against Kathleen Trued (D).
- State Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-District 7) in Lafayette County obtained about $59,000 in contribution from 165 contributors thus far. Contributions include: $500 from Rep. Dennis Baxley of Marion County, two $500 contributions from Disney subsidiaries, and $500 from Dosal Tobacco Corp. Beshears’ expenditures are minimal totaling about $5,000 from 13 transactions. One of the 13 transactions was $15 to PayPal for advertising.
- State Rep. William Travis Cummings (R-District 18) is Clay County’s incumbent and the only candidate at this point with an opponent. The 85 contributions he’s received add up to about $41,280. Contributions include a $500 donation from Walt Disney Travel Company, Int., $500 from the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and $500 from cigar company, Swisher International, Inc. He since accumulated 20-expenditure transactions totaling $6,340.
- Cummings’ opponent, Kenneth Willey, is the only Libertarian candidate in the general election so far. He generated the least amount for contributions — coming in at a mere $330 from 11 contributors. By paying $285 for six expenditure transactions, the candidate is losing money faster than he’s generating it.
- From the 10th District, which covers portions of Alachua, Baker, Columbia, and Suwannee counties, Republican State Rep. Elizabeth Porter received about $26,000 from 55 contributors — two of which include Humana Inc. and the Seminole tribe of Florida, contributing $500 each to her campaign. Her expenses, on the other hand, are comparatively low at $1,750, with $1,000 of that going to the Live Oak Police Department for advertising. Porter said in a phone interview that this advertising was for the annual Live Oak Police Officers’ Charity Ball for which she was a sponsor, and received placement in the program at the event.
- State Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-District 19) serving Bradford, Clay, Putnam and Union counties is running unopposed with $48,662 raised from 138 contributions. He accumulated about $5,250 from 36 expenditure transactions, including a $500 cash transaction for a “miscellaneous small expense.”
- State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-District 23) in Marion County, who helped author the controversial “stand your ground” law in 2005 and Florida’s voting law changes in 2011, received about $44,000 from 92 contributors. His expenses — mostly accounting services or fundraising consulting — total about $13,000.
- State Rep. Charlie Stone (R-District 22) in Levy and Marion counties, reeled in almost $25,000 from 51 contributors. His expenses are low at $493. They have amounted from three bank charges, four bank fees, one fundraiser, two event sponsors and one NRA table sponsor.
- State Rep. Warren “Keith” Perry (R-District 21) who oversees Alachua, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, brought in $20,250 from 41 contributions, including a $500 donation from Rep. Dennis Baxley of Marion County. His 10 expenditures total about $296, which include seven bank transactions with M&S Bank, Publix, USPS, and a $39 campaign reimbursement to Perry Roofing.
- From the 33rd District, which serves Marion and Sumter counties, Republican State Rep. H. Marlene O’Toole received $12,600 in contributions from 27 contributors. Her expenditures total $1,053 from four transactions. Two of which were for fundraising efforts, amounting for more than half of the money spent.
- State Rep. Jimmie Smith (R- District 34) in Citrus and Hernando counties took in $12,250 from 25 contributions. Four of those contributions came in separate $500 donations from Southern Gardens Grove Corp. located in Clewiston, FL. Of Smith’s nine expenditure transactions totaling about $2,296, $320 was paid to himself for reimbursement, and about $1,260 was allotted to his cell phone bills with Verizon Wireless.
- Clovis Watson Jr. (D-District 20) serving Alachua and Marion counties is the only democrat in the race thus far. He’s reported obtaining about $10,000 from 21 contributors, which include: double $500 contributions from Humana, Inc.; two $500 contributions from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida; another two $500 contributions from Disney Inc., and four $500 contributions from Southern Gardens Grove, Corp. Watson is also the only candidate who currently has no reported expenditures.
The majority of the candidates are running unopposed for the 2014 general elections. Still, that hasn’t stopped thousands of dollars in donations from private citizens, public official, corporations and political action committees.
Pam Carpenter, supervisor of elections for Alachua County, said these candidate demographics are sure to change before the end of the qualifying period. She said candidates who enter the race early try to generate as many contributions as possible, anticipating a potential opponent entering the race.
Whether a candidate runs unopposed or not, Carpenter said it’s important for the public to continue checking for contribution and expenditure information as more becomes available through the campaign process.
“The public has a real opportunity to see who’s giving the money and who the candidate is doing business with when they spend their money,” Carpenter said. “It’s just another piece of information that allows the public to become more familiar with the candidates and their support system.”
Carpenter, along with Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones, both agree that the new full-disclosure laws are all about trust and transparency. Carpenter said that by visiting each candidates’ website or going to candidate forums, the public can access as much information as they can to make the best decision on election day.
“It’s very important for the voters to be educated and engaged when they go into the polling place,” Carpenter said.