Florida's free money for millionaire politicians

Florida is the third-largest state in the United States. It voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, albeit in 2012 by less than 1 percent of the vote. Having been key to Obama's two victories, one would think that Florida's Democratic Party would be riding high this year in its efforts to win a key national-attention gubernatorial race over first-term Republican Rick Scott, who barely and surprisingly won four years ago.

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Former Republican governor, independent U.S. Senate candidate and current Democrat Charlie Christ is running for the Democratic nomination for governor and is favored to defeat former State Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, who has managed to raise less money in two years than Crist has from a single lawsuit-happy Texas lawyer, who has contributed $600,000, perhaps the largest single individual political campaign contribution in Florida history.

Scott's approval is lower than his disapproval ratings in almost any poll, thus he should be vulnerable for defeat. Considering that vulnerability, and considering Crist's thumping of a hapless Democrat when Crist was elected governor in 2006, one might expect that the Florida Democratic Party may be poised to win back the governorship they have continuously lost for 20 years, including to Crist in 2006. That is, assuming voters ignore the fact that Sen. Marco Rubio (R) slaughtered Crist for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010 by 20 points.

Crist's fellow trial lawyers have pumped his campaign full of money at record rates, yet Crist suffers when trying to pace the far more efficient and productive Republican political money machine. Campaign reports this year indicate Scott's campaign fundraising is better than two to one over Crist's. Moreover, Scott's personal finances upon filing for the governor's race indicate that his fortune can sustain a huge withdrawal as it did in 2010 when Scott reportedly spent $100 million, most from personal funds, to win that race. By way of comparison, victorious Crist spent $19 million in 2006 to outspend a Democrat three to one.

Now comes Florida's public campaign financing.

Florida has a public campaign funding system that matches campaign dollars one-to-one up to $250 dollars. For any contributions larger than $250 — such as the $600,000 from the Texas trial lawyer — the match would only be $250. Interestingly in Crist's campaign reports, we find a Nigerian citizen being investigated by British authorities who has contributed $100,000 to Crist's campaign. The Nigerian's last political contributions were labeled illegal and were returned in 2008 from Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign. Additionally, on Crist's 52nd birthday, convicted felon and current prisoner Scott Rothstein charged this Nigerian $5,200 to sponsor a candle on Crist's birthday cake. Historically, Crist campaign funds are replete with such suspicious contributions.

Crist and every other statewide Democrat and Republican candidate — except for Scott — filed applications and necessary paperwork to apply for public campaign financing. The Republicans filed on time and were written checks immediately, followed closely by Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich, who applied for the program a few days late and was written a check for $189,000 on August 1; none of the other Democrats, including Crist, have received their matching funds as of Aug. 1 according to the liberal Internet journal The Florida Squeeze (TFS).

Is it a Republican plot to deny cash matching funds to Democrats? Naw ... Scott has eschewed public matching funds and campaign spending limits just like President Obama did in 2008 and 2012. Is he behind a dastardly conspiracy to cheat Democrats out of the free public tax money they are entitled to if they agree to limit campaign spending? No.

It seems, according to TFS, that the Democrats, to the man and woman, filed late. Rich filed late also but obviously, according to the Squeeze, not as late as the others, including Crist, the Democratic hope to break the two-decade long Republican hold on the governorship.

Already stigmatized by a long history of political flip-flopping on every conceivable issue and close personal association with six felons in prison (or just released) for illegally raising funds for Crist and criminally concealing them, as well as his being a Republican governor, independent U.S. Senate Candidate and current Democratic candidate for governor all in less than two years — is Charlie Crist serious?

One wonders if a millionaire candidate for governor — Crist — is so disorganized that he can't apply for millions of free lunch campaign dollars on time is qualified to be a 2014 governor, or dog catcher.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of The New York Times.