Politics & Policy

Rick Scott’s Fundraising Dilemma

Friday was the first campaign-finance reporting deadline since Florida’s primary, and it brought startling news: GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott was massively out-fundraised by Democrat Alex Sink in the 10 days following the primary, $43,000 to $525,000.

Newspapers missed the real headline, though. Since receiving his first donation on April 13, Scott has raised approximately $563,000 — which means Sink’s take from Aug. 24 – Sept. 3 was just a bit shy of what Scott has raised in his entire campaign.

“I’m sure he’s just catching his breath after a bitterly fought primary,” a GOP state committeeman told the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald. “I have no doubt the money is going to be there.”

A hard look at the data, though, lays out the challenge ahead.

Since organizing, Scott’s campaign has received approximately 1,900 donations which make up his $563,000 total.

Sink received more than 3,700 donations in the past 10 days alone and has pulled in $1.7 million from more than 19,000 donations since Scott’s campaign launched.

Asked about the difference, the Scott campaign said that its candidate is currently focused on raising money for the Republican Party of Florida.

“Rick is following a very regimented fundraising plan that is intentionally focused on raising money for the RPOF in the first three weeks after winning the primary,” Brian Burgess, a Scott spokesman, told Battle ‘10. “Rick raised over $2 million during that period, and that helps all GOP candidates, not just his campaign.”

That may help explain the post-primary numbers, but it doesn’t add any color to the larger picture. After all, Scott certainly wasn’t raising money for the GOP when he was squaring off with a party favorite in the primary.

As as anti-establishment candidate and representing only himself, Scott was drastically out-fundraised by primary rival Bill McCollum, who took in $2.9 million through 8,200 donations between Scott’s entrance in the race and the Aug. 24 primary.

The ability to self-fund his primary campaign may have changed Scott’s focus. He personally invested $38.9 million and dropped another $11.3 million into his “Let’s Get To Work” state committee, similar to a PAC. When you’re flush with money and fully comfortable spending your personal treasury, it’s hard to get out there and raise more of it.

Even Scott can’t pay for a general-election campaign, however.

Democrat Alex Sink’s strong fundraising and lack of primary opponent have left her with a $5 million war chest, according to the Herald, compared to the $224,000 Scott has on hand. The latest poll shows Scott trailing by eight points.

Party leaders, including Haley Barbour, the Republican Governors Association chairman who spoke at a Florida GOP event on Friday, have suggested that McCollum voters will open their hearts and wallets to Scott as the stark choice in November becomes clear.

To some extent, that’s true. But with only seven weeks until the election, time is running short.

If the donor surge fails to materialize in a significant way, Scott could feel pressure to pump personal money into the general election like he did for the primary. His last cash infusion into the campaign, at least through the latest reporting period, was $2 million on Aug. 18.

But Scott has expressed reluctance to pony up more of his estate — the $50 million spent on his primary fight represents nearly one-quarter of the $218.6 million net worth listed on his filing documents.

That said, the campaign doesn’t rule out the possibility.

“As you know, we had ample financial resources for the primary, and that will not change in the general election,” Burgess said.


The Latest