Despite the millions of dollars in independent expenditures flowing into Florida from political committees, a new report shows that 100 percent of the money is being reported without any information regarding its target– i.e. what the money is actually being spent on.
The report was compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks and analyzes state-level campaign finances. The Institute released a report last November that found Florida’s poor campaign finance disclosure laws make it hard to see what effect independent spending has on elections in the state, a problem that continues to plague the transparency of elections in the state.
The group’s latest report shows that from the years 2005-2010, $99.4 million was spent on elections in Florida. One hundred percent of that money was disclosed without any “target information,” which means groups did not have to disclose what ballot, candidate, or issue the money was being spent on.
According to the report:
… Several states lack consistent disclosure of target information. Without this critical piece, it is impossible to know the full impact of independent spending on elections. The most glaring example of this problem is in Florida, which fails to disclose target information for all of its $99.4 million of independent spending.
Overall, $116.1 million of all independent spending data lacked target information and was mostly concentrated in eight states.
The report also notes that the top independent spenders in state elections spent the most money in Florida from 2005-2010.
According to the report, “$193.0 million was spent independent of campaigns during the 2009 and 2010 elections for state office,” and the largest independent spenders in the 2010 elections were:
- conservative policy organizations, which spent $41.1 million;
- unions, which spent $40.1 million;
- groups affiliated with Republican candidate campaigns, which spent $28.5 million;
- liberal policy organizations, which spent$27.4 million;
- Democratic Party committees, which spent $16.2 million;
- and Republican Party committees, $15.0 million.
Among the top five individual groups, the Institute reports, two spent all of their money in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott’s political committee Let’s Get to Work, which was financed by his wife, spent the second most amount of money than other groups in that time. The group spent $17,453,125 in independent spending. The Republican Governors Association, a conservative policy organization, spent $26,522,179 from 2005-2010– making it the biggest spender in that time.
Number five on the list of top spenders was Florida First Initiative, which, like Let’s Get to Work, was an electioneering communications organization (ECO). This committee was tied to Scott’s primary opponent, Bill McCollum. The group spent a little over $6 million in independent spending.
The Institute concluded that poor disclosure laws like the ones in Florida are still the biggest obstacle to fully understanding the impact of independent spending on the state level.
According to the group:
The Institute urges state governments to improve their disclosure of independent spending. The chief problems are the lack of disclosure for electioneering communications, and a lack of target, position, and payee information. Until these problems are addressed, it will be impossible to fully understand how independent spending is affecting state-level elections.
As the 2012 presidential nears, groups–including particularly controversial Super PACs– have thrown millions into Florida.