Under the direction of newly-elected Chair Stephen Bittel who came to office touting his fundraising ability, Florida Democrats recorded the worst post-election Q1 since 2005. The low fundraising number came as a shock to many when the anti-Trump energy which has seen a remarkable amount of money raised by both progressive groups and Democratic candidates in special elections around the nation was combined with Bittel’s fundraising network. But of course as we have learned time and again, raising money for state campaigns especially for a party on a record losing run is far more difficult than raising money for Presidential and US Senate candidates.
In some ways Bittel can perhaps be excused for the poor quarter – his naivety and lack of familiarity with state politics may have lent itself to expectations that were never realistic particularly for a party that has been unable to cultivate new funding sources for years. The numbers aren’t good by any metric but the biggest tests of the new Chairman’s leadership are around the corner. A special election in SD-40 as well as the challenges of recruiting candidates for the cabinet and for state legislature will test Bittel.
Looking inside the numbers tells us more:
- Stephen Bittel himself gave $100,000 to the party as the quarter wound down.
- $90,000 was given by New Direction Florida, a political committee with party attorney Mark Herron listed on state documents as its registered agent. This entity is likely a party committee of some sort that probably raised the $90,000 given to the party while Allison Tant was still the Chair of the FDP during the 2016 election cycle. The handover of money from this committee to the party may have happened on Bittel’s watch but it’s likely money that was raised on Tant’s watch.
UPDATE: TFS has learned New Direction Florida is a political committee that was created to support former Sarasota area House candidate Edward James III. Herron is listed as registered agent and treasurer. (4/24/2017 6:35 pm)
- $100,000 came from entities related to the Florida Education Association (the statewide teachers union).
- Florida Justice PAC, the trial lawyers primary gave more money to the RPOF than to the FDP. This probably speaks more to the direction of that organization and the alliance they have made with the likes of Speaker Richard Corcoran than to anything Bittel or the Democrats have done wrong.
- The party raised less money than has been typical in the past from individual law firms or trial lawyers. Though it must be noted these firms have been giving less and less in recent years. Perhaps because the right’s desire to “defund the left” by pushing Tort Reform using Florida as its chief laboratory has been wildly successful, these firms actually don’t have much money to give any longer. Or perhaps they just aren’t pleased with the return on their investment in the past.
- The party raised close to $70,000 from Charter Communications, during the same quarter in which the company was being sued by the State of New York.
Some nuggets from the expenditures:
- The party spent over $13,000 on fees to TKO Communications, a group headed by Ana Cruz, former FDP Executive Director. Cruz is currently the Managing Partner of the Ballard Partners Tampa office. Much has been written about the possible relationship between Bittel and the Ballard Partners firm, which is generally associated with Republicans. However, it is worth noting former Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Boca Raton), a self-proclaimed liberal just joined the firm’s Washington D.C. office.
- The party has done an excellent job of getting money to smaller and medium county DEC’s. For this, Bittel must be given credit. Let us hope it is part of a committed effort to help smaller DEC’s and party committees operate in a difficult election environment.