Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who finished second in a nominating contest, spent more than $160 million.
The staggering amount made Mr. DeSantis’ failed presidential bid one of the most expensive in the modern Republican primary field. But details of where the money went, laid out in a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, show just how profligate Mr. DeSantis has been. and his allied super PACs are.
They channeled at least $53 million through companies controlled or owned by Jeff Roe. Jeff Roy is a powerful Republican strategist who served as a top adviser to DeSantis’ main super PAC, Never Back Down.
They spent $31.3 million on television advertising time.
Between the campaign and “Never Back Down,” they spent at least $3.3 million on private flights.
They have also donated approximately $110,000 to the campaigns of state and federal elected officials who support DeSantis.
all for 23,420 votes in Iowa.
Most of the money ($130 million) was spent by Never Back Down. The super PAC was supposed to be Mr. DeSantis’s secret weapon in ousting former President Donald J. Trump, including through an ambitious lobbying campaign. DeSantis supporters came to the door as many as five times. His campaign spent an additional $28 million.
The costly effort had little success, and DeSantis decided to drop out and endorse Trump ahead of the New Hampshire primary. But it does test the limits of campaign finance law.
Despite not allowing campaigns and super PACs to coordinate their strategies, Never Back Down has taken on an unprecedented role in Mr. DeSantis’ campaign. Mr. DeSantis handed over many responsibilities traditionally overseen by campaign officials, such as scheduling events and organizing getaways. – Voting Efforts – Voting to outside groups.
The arrangement puts key decision-making in the hands of super PAC leaders rather than Mr. DeSantis’ trusted circle of advisers. Tensions between Never Back Down and the campaign have sparked a flurry of negative press coverage that has at times cast a pall on Mr. DeSantis’ candidacy, especially among wealthy donors. .
Representatives from the DeSantis campaign and Never Back Down did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Mr. Roy.
Mr. DeSantis is not the only Republican candidate to drop out this cycle after spending big money.South Carolina Senator Tim Scott Participate in the competition He has $22 million in campaign funds carried over from his 2022 re-election campaign. Within weeks, the super PAC backing him raised an additional $20 million.
But new federal filings show that by the fall, Scott’s fundraising stream dried up as enthusiasm for his candidacy waned. His group spent heavily, with his campaign spending more than $30 million in total and super PACs spending $21.8 million. , including about $15 million in advertising.
Details of his spending are difficult to discern because big money Went to two LLCs with no other apparent business, headquartered in suburban Stamper stores.
In the end, Mr. Scott didn’t even make it to Iowa; Dropped out of school in November.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pours $25.6 million in loans and donations into campaign after campaign leave the game After finishing fourth at Iowa State. At the end of December, his campaign had $1.5 million left. Super PACs backing him raised $8.7 million and spent nearly all of it.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a wealthy businessman, loaned his campaign $14.8 million; his campaign spent $17.8 million before he lent it to his campaign . Withdrew from competition in DecemberSuper PACs backing him raised $24.1 million and spent $24 million.
But DeSantis’s campaign and its defeat were notable for their scale. No other candidate other than Trump ran with more financial support, more hype, or higher poll numbers.
By the time Mr. DeSantis entered the race in late May, Never Back Down had gained war chest Nearly $120 million, including more than $80 million left over from Mr. DeSantis’ re-election as Florida governor. His campaign also raised more than $20 million in his first six weeks as a candidate. (Unlike campaigns, super PACs are allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money from donors, making them vehicles for the super-rich to support candidates.)
never back down $100 million ground game planned Mobilize voters across the country, including a massive voter outreach campaign that deploys paid door-knockers to reach likely DeSantis voters in early nominating states. The organization has pledged to raise $200 million.
Warning signs are coming.
DeSantis insists on flying on private jets, a habit he picked up while in Tallahassee and unsustainable for a candidate without independent wealth.
The campaign exceeded its capacity within the first few weeks, triggering Reorganization and significant layoffs Records show Never Back Down also invested heavily in filling most of the vacancies, including Pay the bill Mr. DeSantis’ flight.
Mr. Roy is a central figure in Mr. DeSantis’s campaign, and the huge funding his firm has received reflects his ambition to run the country’s largest political consulting firm. unnecessary publicity He worked on the campaign trail and was the subject of ridicule by Trump surrogates. He left the super PAC in December as the group collapsed in chaos.
Never Back Down also quietly donated $2.75 million of some of its funds to Win It Back, a super PAC backed by the influential conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth. Around the same time, Win It Back launched a series of anti-tax campaigns. – Trump ad. The donations were not disclosed until Mr. DeSantis dropped out of college.
And Mr. DeSantis withdrew his fist The donation illustrates how super PACs can be used to do a candidate’s dirty work without leaving too many fingerprints on Trump, whom he campaigned against for much of the campaign.
Win It Back eventually took down the ads, saying it found them not welcomed with Republican voters — suggesting the apparent futility of challenging Trump in the Republican primaries.
Meanwhile, another of Mr. DeSantis’ committees was used to express gratitude to several politicians who risked angering Mr. Trump by supporting him. The group Great America Comes Back donated more than $110,000 to these officials, including $6,600. Texas Rep. Chip Roy clashed with DeSantis in the final weeks of the campaign. A ruthless struggle was fought.More than a dozen Iowa lawmakers have joined in received contribute.
Throughout, DeSantis’ fundraising slowed as his poll numbers plummeted and his moments of instability as a candidate mounted. Florida Gov. Trump has seen much of his support drain, first to Scott and then to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is still running.
DeSantis’ campaign raised less and less money each quarter in 2023; Never Back Down raised just $14.5 million in the second half.
Mr. DeSantis’ allies rushed to help; Start your own super PAC The formation of these new groups “Fight Right” and “Good Fight” led to tensions at “Never Back Down” where many senior officials were resign or be fired.
“Fight Right” and “Good Fight” took over TV commercials, while “Never Back Down” focused on voting actiona move the DeSantis campaign publicly encouraged.
The two new super PACs spent $13.8 million on television ads in Iowa. Most of their money comes from transfers from Never Back Down and the Great American Resurgence, with only a small amount coming from donors, mostly wealthy Floridians loyal to Mr. DeSantis, as well as CDR Enterprises, the nation’s largest contractor.
By the end of 2023, when Mr. DeSantis launched his campaign, Never Back Down had spent every penny of the $120 million in its coffers, and then some.
Three weeks later, DeSantis dropped out of the race.