DeSantis campaign cash war chest could give him boost over Trump

A loophole in campaign finance law would let Mr DeSantis cash in his gubernatorial reelection war chest to help a presidential campaign

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 23 February 2023 15:43 GMT
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The massive war chest Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hoarded during his successful bid for reelection last year would catapult him into a significant fundraising lead were he to announce his candidacy for president in the coming weeks.

The Florida governor reportedly has roughly $75m squirreled away in a bank account belonging to his state-level campaign committee, according to HuffPost.

As of last week, the amount reported in the coffers of Friends of Ron DeSantis — the name of his 2022 campaign committee — was $74,832,648, according to Florida Division of Elections data.

That number is far more than two potential rivals for the GOP nomination, ex-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

According to Federal Election Commission data, Ms Haley’s “leadership PAC” only had roughly $2m in the bank last year, while Mr Pompeo’s Super PAC had $1.2m in its coffers.

And while US election law technically prohibits state campaign funds from being used to seek federal office, a recent election ethics case brought by Mr DeSantis created a loophole under which he could easily transfer that sum to a federal Super PAC that would be aligned with his national presidential efforts, after the evenly-split FEC declined to intervene to penalise another Republican officeholder who used state funds to run for Congress.

That theoretical DeSantis Super PAC would have $14 m more at its disposal than the combined $61m under the control of former president Donald Trump through his official 2024 campaign committee, a joint fundraising committee, and an aligned Super PAC that is run by an ex-staffer to the twice-impeached ex-president.

And although Mr Trump has an additional $18m in the coffers of his own “leadership PAC,” those funds are prohibited from being spent to benefit his 2024 presidential effort, but remain available for legal defence and to be spent on what various personal expenses Mr Trump can shift to the committee’s balance sheet.

One aide to a potential GOP rival to the Florida governor said there is “no doubt” that Mr DeSantis’ gubernatorial fundraising haul would provide him an “advantage” over Mr Trump, whose fundraising has lagged in the months since he declared himself a formal candidate to regain the office voters defenestrated him from in November 2020.

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