« Jeff Greene flier prompts response from Palm Beach County Democratic Party | Main | GOP maintains lead over Democrats in early primary voting »

Florida’s billionaire Democrat says he’s put $5M for other candidates into a PAC

Jeff Greene Tampa

Billionaire developer Jeff Greene says he’s made a down payment on his promise to help carry other Democrats into office this November as he campaigns to become Florida’s next governor.

Having already poured at least $29 million into his own campaign, Greene told the Miami Herald that he’s deposited $5 million into the Florida Defense Fund, a political committee created July 31 by Greene attorney Stuart Grossman. Greene says he’ll use the money to help candidates in competitive races around the state, in particular state Senate campaigns as Democrats hope to take back the upper chamber in Tallahassee for the first time in two decades.

But it’s not a final commitment. There may be more money to come — or less.

“My hope is that we really do have a blue wave and they don’t need anything from me,” Greene said in an interview.

Greene filed a form of solicitation announcing his plans to funnel money into the Florida Defense Fund one day after its creation, but doesn’t appear to be coordinating his efforts with Democratic leaders. Incoming Senate minority leader Audrey Gibson, for instance, said she was caught off guard this weekend when she saw a Greene commercial talking about plans to help raise money for Senate Democrats.

“I saw an ad of his just yesterday about contributions to Senate campaigns and I found it interesting,” she texted The Herald. “I was unaware that any Senator was receiving funds and that he had not reached out to ask me about any seats.”

Greene’s contributions were made after the most recent fund-raising reports were due with the state, so they’re not publicly available yet in Florida’s Division of Elections database. But the website for Greene’s PAC shows his $5 million contribution Monday, along with another quarter-million he donated over the last three weeks. The website shows about $235,000 in expenses, all but $1,000 of it to direct mail firm Street Smartz Consulting.

He said he’s given money directly to Senate candidates in races the party hopes to sweep and take control of the chamber, including David Perez, a firefighter and former spokesman to past Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas who’s expected to face Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz in a battle over an open Hialeah-area Senate seat. Greene also said he sent contributions to Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw and candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried.

“I’ve gotten to know these folks a little bit,” Greene said when asked why he isn’t running his money through the Democrats’ House and Senate victory funds. “In general, I’d rather be in control myself of where these funds go.”

Read more here.