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Repeal of public campaign finance system rejected

By Staff | Nov 3, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — An amendment to abandon Florida’s public campaign financing system was rejected by voters Tuesday, keeping the provision in the state constitution.

Amendment 1 would have repealed a provision that requires public financing of campaigns for governor, chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner for candidates who agree to spending limits.

With 89 percent of the expected vote counted, 52.6 percent favored passing Amendment 1. But at least 60 percent of voters had to approve it for passage.

Supporters of the amendment argued public campaign funding is a welfare system for candidates and the money would be better spent on the state’s needs. Opponents said getting rid of the system would give wealthier candidates an unfair advantage.

Public campaign financing has been a largely partisan issue in the Florida Legislature for years, with most Republicans opposing it and most Democrats supporting it. But candidates from both parties generally take the money, with the notable exception being former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

The federal government has public financing for presidential campaigns and Florida is one of 16 states that have full or partial public financing. The Sunshine State has had public financing for statewide campaigns for more than 20 years, and voters put it in the constitution in 1998.

The campaign financing program gave statewide candidates more than $11 million in taxpayer money during the 2006 elections, when Gov. Charlie Crist was elected. Crist himself got $3.3 million for his campaign.