The $147,000 raised by Rep. Darryl Rouson’s now-defunct committee is getting returned, according to the St. Petersburg Democrat.
A UPS overnight package will be arriving Wednesday at the law office of Meyer, Brooks, Demma and Blohm, a firm used by some Florida Democratic campaigns, Rouson said.
The money comes in the form of $134,000 in contributions deposited with Rouson’s Florida House Democratic Caucus Affiliated Party Committee, which was closed Monday. The money, Rouson said, also includes $13,000 in two uncashed checks, including $10,000 from the Florida Hospital Association. The arrival of the money should ease some concerns, which donors were beginning to raise.
Rouson said the only money spent by the committee was $35 for the printing of checks.
The committee rankled leaders with the Florida Democratic Party, who didn’t know about it until last week. On Thursday, Party Chair Allison Tant fired the two staffers, Jeff Ryan and Chris Mitchell, who helped Rouson create the committee in August.
As incoming House Minority Leader, Rouson said he needed the committee as a tool to aggressively raise money for Democratic candidates running for House seats in 2014. But the committee is an affiliated party committee, a special legal designation that gives Rouson independence from the party, in collecting and spending the money.
Also known as leadership funds, the committees were created in 2010 by lawmakers. But not without a fight. While Republicans supported them, Democrats called them “slush funds” that were barely transparent and voted against them. One of those voting against them was Rouson himself.
Even though Republicans are now operating the same type of committee, Rouson’s actions made it look awkward for Democrats, who risked looking hypocritical. Rouson released an email Wednesday that he says helps explain why he felt the need to create the committee. It depicts his dissatisfaction with how the House was spending and raising money, and it’s dated Aug. 19.
It was sent to Ryan, who was the finance director for House Victory, which was raising money for Democratic candidates. Here’s the email:
You have been doing a great job and others have seen your hustle. However you have refused to show a plan for curtailing expenses and a concerted plan for maximizing revenues.
We have also asked for doing some things different, including some remarkable "buy In" from staff.
Members want and deserve a full financial report and a financial plan.
I have received inquiries from members, some of whom you talked with as you related our Successful raising but you haven't addressed the net, what's actually in the bank.
I expect Some members will again ask me during the weeks check pick ups. In the spirit of transparency, these are not dumb members.
Again, I'm asking you for a thought out plan, both of revenue and of curtailing expenses (how do we do a better job keeping what we bring in). As we get closer to committee week this will become increasingly important.