If Dorworth wins reelection, he will become more powerful in the state House. He’ll be next in line when Rep. Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel becomes speaker in November, and will control candidate recruiting and fundraising for House races for 2014.
Like dozens of legislators, he is taking advantage of a loophole in campaign finance law by controlling a political fund, known as a committee of continuous existence or CCE, that’s exempt from the $500 contribution limit that applies to candidates.
Dorworth’s political fund has few restrictions on how money can be spent as long as it advances the committee’s broadly worded objective: “to promote effective leadership to maintain a strong and enterprising democracy.”
“How and where I choose to spend my money is not something I necessarily want aired,” he says.
By contrast, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who controls a fund like Dorworth’s, allowed his accountant, Nancy Watkins, to show a reporter receipts for his expenses. Watkins said she insists that everything be documented, down to a $1.50 receipt for a Miami parking lot.
“Every dollar that goes in and out of this committee goes through here,” Watkins said, sitting in her Tampa office.
In August alone, Dorworth’s fund received $88,000 in contributions, including $20,000 each from Genting, the New York firm seeking to expand casino gambling in Florida, and FOCUS, a committee representing ophthalmologists, a group perennially involved in legislative battles with optometrists involving scope-of-practice issues.
Dorworth says consultants help ensure that contributions to the fund keep flowing.
“The specific ‘ask’ is probably done by me,” Dorworth says. “But the follow-up, I don’t have time for all that stuff.”
Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.