Florida’s Gillum Moving PAC Activities Over to Nonprofit

Move could result in loss of transparency

Andrew Gillum
Andrew Gillum / Getty Images

The political action committee that sustained and supported Andrew Gillum's 2018 campaign for governor of Florida appears to be shifting a significant percentage of its activities to a nonprofit, according to new campaign finance filings.

As a consequence, many of the political activities undertaken by him would come under an entity that has fewer requirements for both donors and for expenditures.

Forward Florida was a PAC established specifically for Gillum and was initially funded by large checks from megadonors George Soros and Tom Steyer.

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As the Tallahassee mayor struggled in a wide field of primary candidates in 2018, the PAC was almost single-handedly responsible for keeping his campaign alive until he shocked pundits and political watchers with his upset victory in the Democratic primary a year ago.

After Gillum lost a close election to Republican Ron DeSantis, he announced he would assume control of the PAC to lead a years-long voter registration effort in hopes of boosting Democrats.

In the most recent monthly campaign finance filing with the state, the Forward Florida PAC transferred $500,000 to Forward Florida Action, Inc., earmarked for "ballot initiative programming."

Florida Politics reported that the nonprofit was established sometime in April.

The move is likely to result in a diminished ability to track the activities because of fewer reporting requirements for the 501(c)4 nonprofit.

As the Center for Responsive Politics explains about such groups:

We can see on their 990 forms what major vendors they hire and what groups they give money to. But 501(c)(4) groups often submit vague explanations for how money is spent with vendors, such as "consulting" or "fundraising," and are not obligated to say what the money purchased with any specificity.

A 501(c)(4) group that spends money explicitly advocating for or against a candidate (known as an independent expenditure) has to report that spending to the FEC.

Donors to the 501(c)4 nonprofit would not have to be disclosed, whereas donors to the PAC would be.

Emailed requests for comment to Forward Florida were not returned.

Gillum became something of a Democratic rising star following his nomination.

However, in the wake of the election, he took fire over the PAC because he closed out the election with roughly $3 million in cash on hand. Supporters were left wondering how so much money went unspent in a remarkably close election decided by about 34,000 votes out of an electorate of 8 million.

"I will tell you that is a huge mistake," tweeted John Morgan, an influential Orlando trial attorney. "Your donors are very disappointed. This is a huge ethical lapse. Give it to charity not to yourself."

"We've committed all funds & money we are raising to registering & reengaging one million voters to beat @realDonaldTrump in 2020," Gillum tweeted in reply to one of Morgan's earlier tweets.