On July 8th, the Nikki Fried campaign touted a poll which showed that she was tied 39%-39% with her Democratic primary opponent Charlie Crist. Now, nearly a month and a half later, we know that the poll was commissioned by Florida Consumers First, the political action committee that has been backing Fried since her first campaign for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018, and which has been linked to dark money by various media sources in the last few days.
According the Florida Division of Elections campaign finance database, Florida Consumers First paid Kaplan Strategies (who conducted the poll) $7,500 for “polling’, one month after the poll was released. According to campaign finance reports (both State of Florida and the Federal Elections Commission), this is the first and only poll that has been conducted by Kaplan Strategies for any political entity which is required to report their expenditures to either a state of federal regulatory committee.
Prior to the release of the poll, Kaplan Strategies only had Republican Jason Brodeur as its client. However, Doug Kaplan was the president Gravis Marketing, a polling firm that had helped both Democrats and Republicans in the past. Still, its validity is questionable, with the Washington Post’s David Weigel calling some of Gravis’s polls “the worst polls in America“.
When the poll was released, one of the biggest questions was about who commissioned the poll. Neither Kaplan Strategies or the Fried campaign disclosed who commissioned the poll. Both were extremely opaque about the subject. Now we see why.
Of course, the financing of this poll is interesting. As I mentioned previously, the payment to Kaplan Strategies for this poll was one month after the poll was commissioned. Why wasn’t the poll paid for earlier? Of course, it’s not uncommon for campaigns and organization to be late with their payments. However, paying for the poll on August 9th allowed Florida Consumers First to file this expenditure during the last reporting cycle before the primary. Basically, the funding of this poll was hidden until just a few days before the primary.
Another interesting thing to note is a tweet that Fried campaign advisor Kevin Cate posted a week after the poll was released. He stated in this tweet that the Kaplan poll was “similar to our internal benchmark”. However, according to the Florida Division of Elections’ database, the Fried campaign has yet to pay for a poll. These could be from numbers that the campaign has received internally from their canvassing efforts, but nothing indicates an actual benchmark poll by a polling firm being conducted. Since it is now a month later, either Cate or the Fried campaign could release those polls without any consequence to their campaign (since the poll would now be outdated).
[…] the wake of several polls that showed Nikki Fried competitive with Charlie Crist (one of which was paid for by a committee backing Fried, yet touted as “non-partisan.) we have a new poll from St Pete Polls, from my vantage point the most reliable pollster in the […]