DeSantis campaign donations dropped over the course of his run

DeSantis campaign donations dropped over the course of his run

MIAMI — Former 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ fundraising dropped off significantly during the final three months of 2023, as polling showed him far behind Donald Trump in the nomination fight.

DeSantis raised $6.7 million and spent $9.3 million, according to filings the campaign submitted to the Federal Election Commission. Despite the investment in the race, DeSantis ended his campaign earlier this month after coming in 30 points behind Trump in the Iowa caucuses.

DeSantis entered the first months of the presidential race last year with formidable fundraising numbers, beginning at $20 million during the second quarter but then dropping to $11 million during the third quarter — a time when he spent almost as much as he raised.

The latest filings posted Wednesday also show the campaign spent $833,382.46 on travel, nearly as much as the $865,091.35 it spent on payroll for campaign employees. The governor is known to use private jets for travel, but the report shows the travel spending from the campaign mainly encompassed hotels, commercial flights and car rentals. It also spent a bulk of the funds — $2 million — to place ads.

The DeSantis campaign outsourced a significant amount of traditional campaign tasks to Never Back Down, the super PAC that supported the governor’s candidacy. The PAC also funded private jet travel, The New York Times reported.

The spending and fundraising for Never Back Down for the second half of 2023 hasn’t been publicly released yet, but is expected ahead of a midnight Wednesday deadline.

DeSantis’ leadership PAC, Great American Comeback, donated to several members of Congress who supported his presidential run. Among the payouts was $6,600 to the committee for GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who often traveled with DeSantis on the campaign trail in Iowa and acted as a surrogate before the media.

The PAC gave the same amount to U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee, the only member of the Florida GOP congressional delegation to have endorsed DeSantis. Another $5,000 went to the committee for Republican Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, who endorsed DeSantis weeks before he made his presidential race official.

The filings also revealed the extent to which DeSantis’ leadership fund and Never Back Down shifted resources toward a new PAC focused on advertising. The PAC, Fight Right, brought in $13 million, much of which came from moving funds from Never Back Down and Great American Comeback PAC. Other donors were developer Jay Odom, who was indicted in 2013 over a straw donation scheme supporting 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, as well as Hugh Culverhouse Jr., a prominent attorney whose father owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fight Right ran an ad in Iowa that featured Florida first lady Casey DeSantis sharing how her husband supported her when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

DeSantis endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the race, saying he didn’t see a way to win the GOP nomination. Trump reported raising more than $19 million last quarter but spent $24 million.

Among the difficulties for DeSantis’ presidential bid were that big donors maxed out contributions early, and a significant portion of the funds couldn’t be used until the general election. DeSantis ended the year with $9.7 million cash on hand, much of which couldn’t be used during the primary.

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