Ron DeSantis’ Ambitious Presidential Campaign: A $168 Million Gamble

According to documents submitted to the Federal Election Commission late on Wednesday, the unsuccessful campaign and massive political operation meant to position Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the Republican candidate for the White House cost $168 million. A more recent super PAC, Fight Right, claimed receiving $9.6 million between mid-November and December of 2023, while the pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, reported receiving more than $130.6 million in payments. According to the AP, his own campaign spent $28.3 million between May and December.

Since a 2010 decision by the US Supreme Court opened the door for super PACs, DeSantis has depended more on outside funding than any other prominent contender. While these political action committees are free to gather as much money as they want from donors—including corporations—to support or oppose politicians, federal law forbids official campaigns of candidates and their representatives from working directly with super PACs. After falling short of Donald Trump by thirty percentage points in the Iowa caucuses, DeSantis called it quits on his campaign last month. As a well-known governor who had gathered more than $130 million with his backers, he had great hopes going into his campaign.

Concerns about DeSantis’s ability to interpret campaign rules clearly also existed. In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization claimed that there was coordination and contact between the campaign and the super PAC supporting him. Never Back Down was responsible for a large portion of DeSantis’ initial preparation. A group supporting his successful reelection as governor in 2022 gave it more than $80 million. Meanwhile, DeSantis’s backers in Florida founded Fight Right for television commercials. It funded advertisements that disparaged Nikki Haley, the Trump opponent.

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