Politics

Where Will Mike Haridopolos' Campaign Millions Go?

Lawmaker says he isn't running elsewhere; donors are keeping their bets in place
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: July 22, 2011 3:55 AM

Mike Haridopolos

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos | Credit: Mark Foley, myfloridahouse.gov

As Republican senatorial candidates scramble for cash to take on well-funded Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Mike Haridopolos is sitting on nearly $3 million in contributions.

Where that money goes is of more than passing interest.

Some of the bankroll, whose receipts totaled $3,519,154 in Haridopolos' latest Federal Election Commission filing, has already been expended.

Haridopolos' campaign reported disbursements of $669,884, debts of $56,910 and unspecified "individual refunds" of $18,575.

That leaves $2,849,270 cash on hand, which federal election law says the former Senate contender can use for a future federal campaign.

The law also stipulates that withdrawn candidates can use their war chest to pay campaign-related expenses, including legal bills.

As long as their campaign accounts remain "active," ex-candidates can also tap funds to promote themselves in various ways.

Speculation has swirled over a possible Hardipolos bid for U.S. House next year. With Florida gaining two congressional seats in 2012 -- and one of those likely targeted for Central Florida -- the Brevard County-based lawmaker could be geographically and financially well-positioned for a run.

Haridopolos, who bowed out of the Senate contest on Monday, has said he will not seek a new office in 2012. The state Senate president has one year remaining on his term.

For now, a spot check of donors indicates that Haridopolos' supporters are sticking with him and keeping their money put.

Kim Kirtley, a partner at Policy Points, a Tampa-based political and corporate communications firm, said she has no plans to request a refund of the $4,800 she donated to Haridopolos.

"He's a great guy. Whatever he decides to do in the future will be fine," Kirtley said.

Gaston Cantens, a Florida Crystals executive whose wife, Ana, donated $2,860, said he "assume[s] Haridopolos will ask to transfer funds to some other race. No sense to refund and then redonate."

Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee-based political consultant, contributed $4,800 to Haridopolos and doesn't expect or desire to see any of that returned.

"Whatever he does with the money, I'm sure he'll follow the law and I will support him. He's a friend and I wish he was still a candidate," he said.

Ballard, who noted that he has worked with both former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and interim U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, declined to divulge which of the GOP Senate hopefuls he will support.

"I'm working with [Mitt] Romney now and my hands are full. I won't get too involved with any of them," Ballard said.

Unlike Charlie Crist, who antagonized Republican donors when he bolted the party for an independent Senate run last year, Haridopolos appears to be maintaining his base.

That's due, in part, to his powerful position as head of the state Senate. By staying put, donors presumably retain access to the president's office.

Though the Republican Party of Florida was not listed as a donor, political consultant Doug Guetzloe said Haridopolos could redirect funds for party use.

Haridopolos did not respond to Sunshine State News' requests for comment by deadline Thursday.

Chris Ingram, a Republican consultant, said, "I heard he’s going to issue pro-rated refunds once all the bills are paid. We’ll see."

Alluding to controversy surrounding Haridopolos' six-figure book deal with Brevard Community College and the ongoing federal investigation into former RPOF boss Jim Greer, Ingram said the senator may have "some skeletons in his closet he’d probably rather keep locked up.

"As such, I imagine he’ll be refunding," Ingram said.

In any event, Haridopolos' retreat appears to be generating much less acrimony and angst than Crist's pullout, which sparked bitter party complaints and even a donor lawsuit demanding reimbursement.

At the time, Crist glibly replied, "The money's all gone."

That does not appear to be the case with Haridopolos.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 559-4719.


Comments (1)

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