With his political future unknown after a resounding loss to Ron DeSantis in the governor’s race last week, Charlie Crist is clearing out his campaign accounts by donating the remainder of his financial contributions to 20 statewide organizations, his campaign announced Monday.
Among the progressive groups receiving funds are Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Ruth’s List Florida, Florida Black Girls, Equal Ground Florida and People Power of Florida, originally created by Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani. She endorsed Crist in the race for governor, choosing him over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who lost in the August gubernatorial primary.
“Charlie has always been someone who looks towards the future, someone who cares deeply about Florida,” Eskamani told the Phoenix in a text message. “That’s why it doesn’t surprise me to hear that he is making donations to various civic and politically focused organizations in the state.”
Eskamani says she wasn’t aware that her organization was receiving a cash donation from Crist’s campaign until informed by a reporter. That was the same situation with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
“We are happily surprised that the Charlie Crist campaign has decided to donate some of their funds to us, and to other organizations doing great work in Florida,” said Tessa Petit, co-executive director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Congressman Crist has been an ally of our organization and has been eager to listen to the needs of our community and offer any support as a sitting congressman.”
Though the specific dollar amounts to the 20 groups aren’t being announced, Crist ended his campaign with approximately $700,000 left in his two accounts – $587,000 in his regular campaign account and $113,852 in his PAC, Friends of Charlie Crist, according to campaign records at the Florida Division of Elections.
He says that each organization will receive an equal donation, which would equate to around $35,000 each.
“With women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the rights of all of our fellow Floridians still on the line, I am proud to announce our campaign will redirect our resources towards organizations standing up for freedom and democracy in our state,” said Crist in a statement. “The fight for a truly free and fair Florida continues.”
In at least one case, Crist is donating to a group who financially supported his candidacy.
That would be Ban Assaults Weapons Now (BAWN), a political committee originally designed to get a constitutional amendment banning assaults weapons in Florida on the ballot. According to campaign finance, the organization contributed $33,761 to Crist and his PAC in 2022.
Gail Schwartz, the chair for BAWN, told the Phoenix that the difference between Crist and DeSantis was “stark.”
“The (former) congressman not only presented a comprehensive approach to combating gun violence that would have made our state a safe place to live, but he has a track record for and supporting common sense gun safety legislation. DeSantis, on the other hand, was endorsed and received an “A” from the NRA,” Schwartz said. “He also stated he would end Florida’s permitting process to carry a firearm in public, which will result in more guns flooding our communities.
While Crist spent virtually all of the approximately $31 million he raised in his unsuccessful bid for governor, that total was dwarfed by more than $200 million that DeSantis was able to garner, the most money any gubernatorial candidate has raised in U.S. history.
DeSantis ended his campaign with more than $66 million leftover – $60 million of that is with his political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, and nearly $6 million more in his regular campaign account.
The DeSantis reelection campaign did not respond to the Phoenix’s request for comment about what DeSantis might do with those funds.
There has been much speculation that DeSantis will mount a campaign for president. If he does do so, he will likely create a federal super PAC. According to the Federal Elections Commission, a candidate’s authorized federal campaign may not accept funds or assets transferred from a committee established by the same candidate for a nonfederal election campaign, meaning that he cannot directly move those funds into a new PAC for a presidential candidacy.
However, Daniel Weiner, a former lawyer for an FEC commissioner and now with the Brennan Center for Justice, said earlier this year that the FEC has not always enforced a political candidate transferring campaign funds from a state PAC to a federal PAC.
“For the last decade plus, enforcement has been pretty weak,” Weiner told CNN. “As long as he does not blatantly violate the law, DeSantis will be able to do what he wants.”
Here is the entire list of groups receiving funds from the Crist campaign:
Planned Parenthood Action Fund Florida
Ruth’s List Florida
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Florida Insulin 4 All
Florida State Conference NAACP
Ban Assault Weapons NOW (BAWN)
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Mothers Fighting for Justice
Florida Freedom to Read Project
Equal Ground Florida
Florida Black Girls
People Power for Florida
Women’s March Florida
Guatemalan Mayan Center
Floridians for Reproductive Freedom
Senate Victory Fund
House Victory Fund
Municipal Victory Fund