A group supporting a solar power ballot initiative backed by utility companies has become the state’s biggest fundraising committee in 2015, eclipsing Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work committee, which had been leading the way for most of the year until now.
Consumers for Smart Solar has raised $5.9 million through November, putting it ahead of Let’s Get to Work, which has raised $4.2 million this year, according to Florida Division of Elections records.
Consumers for Smart Solar is pushing a ballot initiative that would counter one promoted by some environmental groups called Floridians for Solar Choice. The proposal by Floridians for Solar Choice would allow people to contract with an out-of-state companies to install solar panels on their roof and buy that energy, instead of going through an existing state-regulated utility company. The Floridians for Solar Choice, Inc., has also had a big fundraising year, collecting more than $1.9 million for their campaign. That ranks them 6th among political action committee fundraising in 2015.
Though Scott is term limited and cannot seek re-election, his aggressive fundraising pace has raised speculation that Scott is building up to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Scott has spent more than $800,000 just on various political consultants and political research just in the last 11 months, according to Florida Division of Elections records. Scott has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny to reporters whether he is considering running for the Senate in 2018.
In third place is Florida Grown PC, a committee controlled by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican. That committee has now topped $3.2 million in 2015. Putnam is widely speculated to be interested in running for governor in 2018 when Scott’s tenure ends.
The jockeying to be Florida Senate President in 2017 also had a big impact on the top ten list of fundraising committees heading into the 2016 election cycle. A political committee run by State Sen. Jack Latavala, the Clearwater Republican who conceded the contest to Sen. Joe Negron last month, raised $1.7 million to rank 7th on the list. Negron, a Republican from Stuart raised just under $1.7 million for his political committee called the Treasure Coast Alliance, ranking him 8th on the list.
Florida election laws bar anyone from donating more than $1,000 to a traditional campaign committee for a legislative office. It allows donations up to $3,000 for a statewide candidate. But candidates get around those limits by creating political action committees, which have no state limit on how much one donor can give. However, those committee’s cannot directly advocate for the re-election of the politician who maintains the committee.
Top 10 Political Action Committee
By total money raised in 2015
1. $5.91 million - Consumers for Smart Solar - Supporting a ballot initiative backed by state utility companies.
2. $4.25 million - Let’s Get to Work - Gov. Rick Scott supported political committee
3. $3.23 million - Florida Grown PC - Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam supported committee
4. $2.77 million - People United for Medical Marijuana - Group supporting a ballot initiative for 2016
5. $2.41 million - Realtors Political Advocacy Committee - Backed by the state’s 140,000 realtors
6. $1.94 million - Floridians for Solar Choice - Supporting a ballot initiative to allow out of state companies to contract with Floridians for solar power
7. $1.74 million - Florida Leadership Committee - Affiliated with State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater
8. $1.68 million - Treasure Coast Alliance - Affiliated with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart
9. $1.65 million - Taking Jacksonville to the Next Level PC - Supported Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s unsuccessful re-election campaign earlier this year
10. $1.44 million - The Conservative - Affiliated with State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.
Source: Florida Division of Elections