Florida Democratic Party is broke even after taking PPP loan meant for small businesses

The Florida Democratic Party is out of money and millions behind their state Republican rival as criticisms continue over a Paycheck Protection Program loan last year that party officials were forced to return after a major fall-out.

According to Federal Election Commission data posted by ProPublica, the state Democratic Party has about $60,931 in cash on hand, with more than $868,000 in debts after $1,122,753 in total receipts and $1,218,461 in expenditures for the period between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, the Florida Republican Party has more than $5.8 million in cash on hand, according to FEC data, after receiving $75,676 and spending $176,142 in the period between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31, 2020.

The figures, which were posted on Twitter by ProPublica writer Derek Willis, were confirmed by Peter Schorsch, the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, who added: “And from what I hear the situation is much worse than this, with many staffers having lost their health care in December bc bill was not paid.”

The dearth of cash on hand comes after Florida Democrats were ripped last fall for taking PPP funds that were meant to help small businesses ride out COVID-19-related slowdowns and retain their employees.

“@FlaDems should NEVER have applied for a taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Program loan. But they did — and I’m leading the charge to find out who’s responsible. I voted for the PPP to help small businesses, not line political parties’ pockets. Floridians deserve answers!” Rep. Mike Walz (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter Oct. 15.

His tweet included a clip of a news report by CBS affiliate WCTV, which said that several GOP lawmakers believed that criminal charges may be warranted over the $780,000 loan.

Schorsch reported via Twitter on Nov. 4 that state Democrats had to return the loan while ripping the party for accepting it in the first place.

“Florida Democrats took a $780,000 PPP loan that they should never have received and ended up having to return. It was used in at least 10x that worth of attacks on their candidates throughout the state. I hope that building fund was worth it,” he wrote.

In an earlier story for his website, Schorsch noted that while acceptance guidelines for the PPP loan program were broad, the law was clear that political parties were not eligible.

“FDP has blamed the SBA, they have blamed the lender, leading Democrats have blamed party leaders, yet no one has taken responsibility for what has turned out to clearly have been a calculated plan that backfired,” he wrote Sept. 17, adding there were still “five big” questions that needed to be answered.

Republicans won big in Florida in November. Former President Donald Trump, who lives in the state, defeated President Joe Biden by three points, while the state GOP added five House seats, flipped a state Senate seat, and defeated two incumbent Democratic congresswomen.

The washout led to a shakeup in party leadership. Former state party chief Terrie Rizzo, who resigned last month, was replaced by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

Republicans have controlled both state legislative chambers, the governorship, and the state Cabinet for more than 20 years, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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Jon Dougherty

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