New fundraising reports detail how heavily Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed presidential campaign gave to a tailored super PAC, leaning on an outside group to shoulder the bulk of its organizing and advertising costs.
The super PAC, Never Back Down, spent $131 million in 2023, more than four times the $28.2 million the DeSantis campaign spent last year, according to a new fundraising report filed with the Federal Election Commission late Wednesday.
While Super PACs typically spend millions on advertising because they can raise unlimited amounts of money, Never Back Down also led the pro-DeSantis organizing effort, focusing most of its efforts on Iowa.
The group spent $23 million on exploration and field operations. DeSantis’ own campaign did not list any independent spending for intelligence or field operations in 2023.
Never Back Down had 88 employees on its payroll in December, while DeSantis’ campaign had 51 that month. Never Back Down personnel were often spotted wearing patterned zip-up jackets at events, and the band reported spending more than $9,000 on the jackets in late September and early October.
DeSantis relying on a super PAC backfired As the internal drama faces Never Back Down. DeSantis’ allies broke with other fringe groups to support the governor as top staffers clashed and left the group.
Never Back Down’s latest fundraising report, covering the last six months of 2023, showed the group gave $9.6 million to one of those other groups, Fight Right, between late November and December.
Never Back Down also sent more than $2.7 million to Win It Back PAC, which ran ads against former President Donald Trump in July and August. Win It Back PAC eventually stopped advertising against Trump when it saw the ads had little effect on the former president’s reputation.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ presidential campaign spent more on travel and staff than it did on ads in 2023, according to a new fundraising report detailing the campaign’s financial strain in the final days.
Last year, the campaign spent $3.3 million on “media placement,” which refers to money spent on airtime ads. But his campaign spent $2.8 million on travel and another $2.8 million on salaries last year, according to figures from his latest fundraising report, along with previously reported expenses.
Campaign finance records show that the trip included significant expenses for private air travel, while payroll costs supported a rapidly increasing and then increasing number of staff. it was cut short a few months after the campaign began.
DeSantis also struggled to grow his donor base, ending the year with a campaign account full of money he couldn’t use for the primaries.
A new fundraising report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday showed DeSantis’ campaign had $9.7 million in its account at the end of December, less than a month before he dropped out of the race after finishing second in Iowa. caucuses.
However, most of this money could only be used for general elections. In 2023, DeSantis’ campaign reported raising $9.1 million in general election funds that it failed to spend in the primary, according to year-end filings.
DeSantis’ campaign increased its spending from the previous quarter, spending $9.3 million from October to December, including $2 million on advertising, $866,000 on staff and $659,000 on travel.
The report showed 55 workers on the campaign payroll, with little change in staffing levels since the campaign made deep staff cuts in July.
Most of the travel expenses went to three business travel companies: Florida-based TMFB Management Services and Workman Transportation and New Jersey-based Corporate Traveler. Craig Mateer, owner of TMFB Management, contributed heavily to DeSantis’ Florida campaigns, and he also donated to DeSantis’ presidential campaign.