If money talks, some have said, in politics it shouts.
This is what it says: “You need me.”
It takes money to get elected to office. Then it takes money to get reelected, or to get elected to something else.
And the higher the office, the more money it takes, so you have to raise funds early and often.
Consider: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has amassed a war chest of about $2.6 million since he took office … in January. He hasn’t yet announced he’s running for reelection — which would be in 2022 — or some other office, but that money has to be intended for something, right?
Thanks to campaign finance reporting laws it’s possible to see where this money comes from, up to a point. Whether the name of the donor tells you anything is a different story.
If it’s a political action committee or an electioneering communications organization, the chances are it won’t tell you anything at all.
The voters in Venice and Punta Gorda have been inundated with mailings from somebody who is very interested in the outcome of their City Council races but it’s impossible to find out just who that somebody is.
State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, is on a mission to change that. He has filed a bill for the legislative session to begin in January that would make it harder for so-called “dark money” to have an impact on elections.
The problem is that it’s legal in the state to form a PAC or ECO to be a conduit for money from other ones, funded by still other ones, as long as there’s no coordinating with the candidate.
The money is then largely used to buy ads supporting candidates, attacking their opponents or both. Since the people people behind them are cloaked in anonymity, they often don’t operate under the constraints they would feel if their names were on them.
To be blunt, they exaggerate, manipulate and obfuscate — all for the good of the city/county/state/nation, of course.
Gruters’ bill, Senate Bill 516, would make it harder to do that by prohibiting a PAC or ECO from transferring funds to another PAC or ECO, a political party or an affiliated party committee. It could still accept donations and buy ads, just without layers and layers of insulating middlemen, so to speak.
It would be a baby step toward reducing the part money plays in our elections but it would be better than nothing.
Too bad it’s not going to happen.
Forgive our skepticism, but there’s a reason for it: Gruters has already tried three times to get essentially the same law passed and it never got out of committee.
And he’d seem to be well positioned to advance it.
He amassed political power as treasurer for any number of politicians and served as chair of the county Republican Party before taking over as the head of the state party. He’s just about as connected as a state senator can be.
He’s even got personal motivation as the target of an anonymous smear campaign in a prior election. If he can’t get this done, it may not be doable.
Which would hardly be a surprise. Money is like sugar, Gruters told the Orlando Sentinel: “You get a little taste, and it’s hard to give it up.”
Still, there’s no reason not to remind your representatives that you know next year is an election year, with all 120 seats in the Florida House and all 40 seats in the Senate to be filled.
Make Gruters’ bill an election issue now.
Urge House and Senate members to support it. Ask other candidates whether they back it. Lobby elected city and county officials to push for it. Send letters and emails to anyone who can advocate for it.
The squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease but the one that doesn’t squeak never does.