Should Left Over Campaign Cash Be Returned To Contributors?





Davie Mayor Judy Paul must have a gold-plated office.


Judy Paul

Judy Paul


Otherwise, how can she have allotted $16,000 from her unopposed campaign for office expenses over the next three and a half years.

This is legal. Everything is on the up-and-up. Everything spelled out in Florida Statute 106.141.

But $16,000 in office expenses in Davie, whose political structure and rural posturing is such that they still call themselves the Town of Davie?

Paul did donate lots of money to various Davie charities such as $9,089 to the Friends of Davie Farm Park, $5,000 to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, 1,000 to the Old Davie School and $1,000 to Young At Art Museum. She also gave the Town of Davie $4,000.

Contributors of $62,360 got nothing back in Paul’s final financial report.

This is not unusual. Many office holders give away the money to their favorite charity and use the rest for office expenses and future campaigns.

State Rep. Katie Edwards collected $110,456 for her 2014 re-election, an unopposed return to Tallahassee. Her final report indicates she gave nothing back – unless you count a $272 thank you dinner for interns at Lightsey Fish Company in Okeechobee and the thousands she spread around the district for charity.

She also put aside $10,000 for her office and $20,000 she forwarded to her 2016 campaign.

Many judicial candidates who win office unopposed do give back what’s left over from campaigns to contributors.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who was unopposed in 2012, paid his $9,005 qualifying fee from his campaign contributions.  Then he gave donors roughly half their money back.

Finkelstein told me at the time it was not his business to give other folks’ money to charities.

“It’s not my money. It’s theirs,” Finkelstein said.

I could argue that while all those contributions to charities are beneficial and admirable, they also serve to cement politicians in office.  The boards of many charities are often the same folks who contribute to campaigns.

Should the law be fine tuned, perhaps further limiting the percentage to charities, office expenses and future campaigns? It’s not going to happen.

Even if you believe that the law needs a slight fix, the state Legislature are major beneficiaries and will never change it.



11 Responses to “Should Left Over Campaign Cash Be Returned To Contributors?”

  1. Filing Fees says:

    The office decorating is distasteful and should be prohibited. Taking money from the people with a vested interest in your position (the lobbyists, developers, etc.) and when you get no opponent, you use thousands to get yourself fancy furnishings???? Legitimized bribery — nothing more.

    And as for the charities, seems like the quid pro quo between the well-heeled charity board members in donations and then funneling it back into the same charities later on? Talk about yuck.

    But to hear about candidates who are too cheap to pony up their own filing fees and using campaign donations for that — PU!

    Show a little humility please and pay your own way to get back into that well-paid and prestigious position.

    I can tell you when I get a fundraising letter from a candidate that puts up front that they’ve paid their own way with the filing fee (opponent or not), I feel much better giving to that candidate. Those that are relying on the good will of the political donor class to pay your filing fee should be a little bit embarassed……

  2. Minor change says:

    I think the donors should be given the option to get back their money or have it donated to charity. Probably most or many would prefer to have the money donated anyway.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good idea to have contributors decide. There should be an amendment to law that the candidate has to contact every contributor and ask whether their money should go to charity or be returned pro rata. The office expense should be left alone.

  4. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    For what it’s worth, in every one of my elections, I return campaign contributions left over following an election on a pro-rata basis to those contributors who indicate they’d like a refund. I ask them and they tell me.

    I retain an office account as allowed by law, and any money left over after refunds is donated per Florida statutes.

    Very few donors ever ask for refunds, it’s extremely rare in fact, but I’ve never failed to honor such a request. By following this formula I’ve never had a complaint from anybody.

    If they made that into a law, it would be a good law.


    PS — Since before I was first elected to present, I am an advocate for publicly financed campaigns and believe if we had such a system, with no private money allowed at all, the quality of our government would be vastly improved as would public trust in the work that elected officials perform.

  5. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    You give ($) because you want to give. You give to the person because you share their ideas, believes etc. By giving donations($) you show your support. And yes money talks and BS walks. As far as mandates to have them give money back if they don’t use it all, well good luck…..

  6. Floridan says:

    ““It’s not my money. It’s theirs”

    I disagree. Once you have given the money to a candidate it is no longer yours, legally or, I would say, morally.

    I remember a Fort Lauderdale politician who after the election routinely asked contributors if they wanted a portion of their contribution back. He said almost no one did.

  7. Count LF ChodkiewiczChudzikiewicz says:

    Let’s be honest the days of “Dollars For Democrats” when during the 1956 Adlai Stevenson Campaign average women outside of government or tax payer funded groups went their friend and neighbors for small contribution are over. People give now large amounts to get jobs, funding, government contracts or planning or zoning favors. People don’t want their money back because that defeats te whole purpose of the donation. As former treasurer of a candidate I saw “supporters who believed in the candidate volunteered while they expected special interests to pay the bills.
    On Miami Beach a TERM LIIMITED it Comissioner cn raise over a million dollars from city vendors who are or will be biding on Fort Lauderdale city contracts, do you think these future donors to the four Commssioners running for Mayor in 2018 care a damn about getting unspent money back! Hell No! They want their city contracts!

  8. Elizabeth Matramos says:

    Give it back or at least the opportunity to chose.

  9. Bob Adams says:

    Reality Check for “Filing Fees” – the $16,000 that Mayor Paul kept for office expenses was NOT for office furniture or decorations. Buddy was making a point about leftover campaign money. State law also requires regular filings to document what that money is spent for. I’m sure there is no gold-plated office!

  10. Schmooozer says:

    Buddy: Why not go look at the office and tell us?

  11. Robert Enslein says:

    I was a candidate for Broward County Supervisor of Elections in 2000. At an early age I learned to count and realized that Miriam Oliphant had the backing of all of the pols, and had the votes. The passage of time proved that she was not a good choice.
    I withdrew from the race and returned one hundred cents on the dollar to all my contributors and bore the expenses of the campaign myself.. That was and is the right thing to do.