Florida Democrats Record Poor First Quarter Fundraising: What is Going Wrong?

The Florida Democratic Party whose State Committee is meeting today in Tampa recorded its worst post-election fundraising quarter since Q1 in 2005, during the first quarter of 2013. The party which was beset by infighting in January over who would be its Chair has since been grappling with difficulties related to being a minority party in the state legislature and widespread grassroots resistance to the potential candidacy of Charlie Crist in addition to the continued difficulties related to years of organizational neglect.

When she ran for Chair, Allison Tant the current Chairwoman touted her fundraising ability. While this quarter’s fundraising was little short of disastrous, it should be noted that Tant inherited a party from former Chairman Rod Smith that was hardly functioning at all and that while she probably over-promised her ability to raise money quickly, the poor quarter is probably not yet a fair reflection of her abilities. Moreover, when looking carefully at the report it must be noted that almost zero money was raised prior to Tant’s selection meaning the party lost nearly a full month of fundraising potential.

But what continues to bother me is the lack of creativity in fundraising for both FDP and local DECs. Activist networks aren’t being tapped and the type of issue based donors that fund environmental, women’s and pro-worker advocacy groups hardly ever show up on the finance reports of the FDP except during election. These same groups almost never show up on local DEC finance reports.

An outgrowth of the failure of the party to effectively raise money from Republican oriented Tallahassee based interest groups probably means that House Victory under Rep. Darryl Rouson should remain autonomous this cycle while the FDP looks to expand its fundraising base beyond Tallahassee lobbyists and law firms who do business in front of a Republican controlled legislature. Labor is a reliable ally, but  they alone cannot sustain a statewide party. House Victory can continue to raise money from Tallahassee interest while the FDP looks to revitalize it’s fundraising base beyond the capitol.

Partisan fundraising is not easy particularly when you have been a long-term minority party like the Democrats. It has been further complicated by longstanding low caliber of party leadership. Perhaps Allison Tant can change that and change takes time, but the early returns are not promising. I have also spoken to some former  small dollar donors who have said they are not giving any longer to the party thanks to a multitude of factors but the potential of money being spent on Charlie Crist’s Gubernatorial candidacy almost always comes up. This is not the fault of Ms. Tant, but she may be forced to address if Crist does not bow out in the next few months.

Tant was a prolific bundler for President Obama, and she and other party officials need to tap the networks of those who don’t typically give to the FDP or local DECs in order to be successful. Current fundraising strategies will always fail because those who give large amounts of money on the state level are comfortable with the status quo where the GOP has held over 60% of legislative seats since 1998. Thankfully, in Tant Florida Democrats have someone who isn’t a former elected official tied irrevocably to those networks but she needs to work hard expanding the party’s fundraising reach beyond traditional donors and towards activists and other interest groups in coastal areas and large metropolitan areas.

Florida’s Democrats continue to be a woeful minority party. This week’s finance reports just reinforce that unfortunate notion.

18 comments

  1. Concerned Democrat · · Reply

    Tant is not to blame. The sellouts in the legislature and growing progressive angst about Crist are responsible.

  2. Island PbC · · Reply

    Those that are pushing Crist are to blame. I sent a letter to Tant and DWS that the state party and national party will not get a penny from me. I will continue to give to only Frankel and maybe so newbies.

    1. AllisonTant hasn’t invited Crist to give the keynote address at fundraisers. If you want to complain about “pushing Crist,” look at the DECs that are giving him a platform. Mine (Hillsborough) is one of them and I am not happy about it.

  3. Mike Lake Worth · · Reply

    The are not depending on your money. They are depending on Crist. The Ds on a state level are worthless if not criminal.

    Tant can’t raise money for many reasons and most have to do with Crist.

    There is more but it is not her fault. Thank her bosses.

  4. The Judge · · Reply

    Tant is a joke. No presence in a room, no history of grassroots organizing and no real fundraising experience. She’s absolutely worthless.

  5. Realist · · Reply

    Blaming Crist is convenient for the activists and Kartik who is obsessed with Charlie (gay crush perhaps?)

    Reality is Tant is a pathetic leader and cannot do anything and is failing miserably. I do like the point K makes here on Rouson. He needs to keep control of HV as is stated here. Tant wants control and her and Ulvert will ruin it.

  6. Realist — anyone who is concerned with Democratic politics in Florida is concerned with Charlie Crist right now. Your casual bigotry indicates you should be voting with the GOP redneck base.

  7. Those picking on Kartek are pretty dumb. Pick up a damn newspaper: No one support Crist because he is awful and not because he is gay or not. It looks like realist is still evolving

    Major Democratic financial backers, including trial lawyers and teachers, are gushing about Charlie Crist and his prospects for 2014.

    Crist has not announced plans to run for governor again, but polls show him trouncing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by double digits.

    The lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat at this point looks like he could grab the Democratic nomination without even a serious challenge.

    RELATED NEWS/ARCHIVE
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    1 Month Ago

    Transcript of Rick Scott and Alex Sink’s first debate here

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    But oh-so-quietly, veteran Democratic fundraisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: A Charlie Crist train wreck that would ensure a second term for one of America’s most vulnerable Republican governors.

    The wariness and even downright hostility to Crist’s candidacy is part of what’s fueling speculation about Sen. Bill Nelson entering the race.

    Scott may have anemic approval ratings, the thinking goes, but he will have tens of millions of dollars to turn his challenger into an unacceptable alternative. In Crist, who walked away from the governorship three years ago and is now aggressively reinventing himself, Scott would have loads of material to work with.

    “It’s a difficult sell for a candidate who was governor, who left governor to run to be the Republican senator, to now come back and say he wants to be the Democratic governor,” said former Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith. “Charlie Crist may very well be able to explain that to people’s satisfaction, but it becomes the focus of the campaign. … As soon as the election becomes focused on the challenger, rather than the incumbent, I think the challenger is in trouble.”

    Nelson, 70, has repeatedly dismissed the suggestion he might run for governor, but enough Democrats have spoken to him about it that he is considering it. He is said to be leaning against the idea but is not expected to make a final decision at least until the fall.

    • • •

    2014 could be the Democrats’ best opportunity to rebuild the party in a generation. But in taking on a governor vowing to spend $100 million on his re-election, some Democrats worry they will bet the house on Crist, 56, and wake up homeless after Election Day.

    Angst about Crist’s ability to beat Scott, 60, is common among Democratic money-raisers, but many are reluctant to say it publicly because they don’t want to antagonize the candidate already poised to become standard-bearer for Florida Democrats. Those who raise concerns do it diplomatically.

    “I know Gov. Crist has had a spiritual journey and has found many of his past positions are not positions he now feels comfortable with. However, that journey is a public record and it is something we will have to defend if he is our nominee,” said Mitchell Berger, a top Democratic fundraiser and lawyer from Fort Lauderdale.

    Story here
    Adam Smith Tampa Bay Times
    [Last modified: Saturday, April 13, 2013 6:32pm]

  8. Nancy Smith · · Reply

    Fund-raising for what? I haven’t seen any excitement, any leadership, or any attempt to find candidates and begin the advertising for voting Democrat. Time is fleeting. There is plenty out there to be running ads about. Without enthusiasm and without information, people will stay home in 2014, which means we will lose our gains in the legislature and lose our chance to save Florida from the carpet-baggers!

  9. Dems equal FAIL.

  10. The Judge · · Reply

    Didn’t Tant claim she could raise $50 million?

  11. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Tant didn’t come through…big stunner. Anyone who knew her knew it was all talk. She’s so miserably over her head.

  12. Lewis in Lauderdale · · Reply

    Anyone who is shocked by this should be examined.

    Honestly, Tant was all talk and bluster. All she did was bundle money for PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. THAT IS EASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSY $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    Raising money from small dollar donors as you suggest and also the types of Tallahassee insider money is something she has NEVER proven an ability to do.

    So how does this surprise anybody in any way shape or form?

    Tant = MASSIVE FAIL

    P.S – Crist is a joke and we need to nominate someone else but he is not the cause of this failure.

  13. I never gave to the Democratic party, only to individual candidates. Now that Tant is in charge, I am giving to the party for the first time. I know there are more out there like me. A year from now I believe you will be writing a different article. I worked with Tant years ago and saw her tenacity and determination. You should not underestimate her.

  14. Kartik has simplified his analysis on everything to the following:

    It is all Charlie Crist’s fault! LOL

    I am no fan also and kinda like this but just think it is funny.

  15. CC has nothing to do with the bad fundraising. Its the lack of a fundraising plan from high to low donors. Not a single FDP fundraising email went out during session about the Republicans obstructing Medicaid expansion, etc. What the hell is happening over there??

    1. Perhaps you should sign up for FDP emails. I get at least one a week.

  16. […] the first quarter, I gave Chairwoman Tant a pass blaming the poor report on former Chairman Rod Smith among other things. I’ll repeat […]

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