Marco Rubio had collected a tidy $12.9 million in his political campaign account as of June 30, but he had to give up a large chunk of money when he decided to run for president instead of the U.S. Senate.
The Florida Republican refunded more than $821,000 to donors who had contributed to his Senate reelection campaign before Rubio switched races, according to his first finance report, filed Wednesday night with the Federal Election Commission.
Unless donors explicitly agreed to transfer their contributions to the presidential campaign, their checks had to be returned. Some donors say no, and others fail to respond to campaign queries about the transfers. Among Rubio’s refunds is one to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul being courted by several GOP presidential contenders.
Of Rubio’s total fundraising, $8.9 million came in new presidential contributions, while $3.2 million was carried over from his Senate account.
The total sum means Rubio lags behind primary rivals Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. But he boasts a larger amount of money in the bank, at least for now, than any of his better-funded Republican opponents. Rubio reported about $9.9 million on hand, compared with Cruz’s $8.5 million and Bush’s $8.4 million.
That’s at least in part because Rubio has spent $2.3 million so far, a relatively modest amount compared with other contenders. Rubio’s campaign has long described itself as thrifty, working out of an existing Rubio political action committee office in Washington, D.C., instead of leasing a larger headquarters and hiring only a few key staffers.
“Running a lean campaign, Marco has traveled to 17 states since April and done over 40 events in the first four early voting states,” his campaign said Monday in a statement revealing its fundraising totals but not yet detailing donors.
Most of Rubio’s spending went to travel, payroll, political consultants and office supplies. He also paid $11,655.57 to Carey International, a Washington limousine service.
Like Bush, the former governor, Rubio’s top fundraising state was Florida, accounting for $1.9 million of his total. Donations to Rubio from individuals and corporations from Miami-Dade and Broward counties amounted to at least $730,000.
Rubio received more from small donors who gave $200 or less — about $2 million, or about 23 percent — than Bush, who paid more out of his own pocket than he received from the grassroots. Rubio hasn’t put in any of his own money in the race, which has been running for longer than Bush’s: Rubio launched his candidacy April 13, while Bush waited until June 15.
The big money for all major 2016 presidential candidates will come from super PACs and political nonprofits that can accept unlimited dollars. Bush has $103 million from a super PAC available to support him, Cruz has $37 million, and Rubio has $31.8 million.
In contrast, the campaigns themselves must cap contributions at $2,700.
Among Rubio’s maxed-out donors were Miami billionaire auto dealer Norman Braman and his wife, Irma. Braman has pledged to give Rubio millions, though the public may never know exactly how much: Though the Conservative Solutions super PAC run by Rubio allies must disclose contributions by the end of the month, the Conservative Solutions Project nonprofit can keep donations secret.
Other notable South Florida contributors include Dr. Arthur Agatston, who created the South Beach Diet; former state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff; Florida Crystals executive Gaston Cantens; Dr. Jeffrey Feingold of Boca Raton, a Republican Jewish Coalition leader; Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who is running for Rubio’s Senate seat; and Albert Nahmad, chief executive of Watsco, a major distribution business. Rubio has also won the support of figures such as the chief executive of the Houston Texans football team, Bob McNair, and Scott Oelkers, who runs Domino’s Pizza Japan.
Brenda Bassett, a Republican voter from Pinecrest, gave Rubio $500 despite knowing that the candidate would be awash in larger donations.
“Marco has been a good friend,” said Bassett, who co-stars with Jimmy Cefalo on the local radio and TV show Eat This, Drink That, Go. Bassett said she has known Rubio since the 1990s and held a fundraiser for him when he ran for Senate in 2010.
“I like Marco because he has not changed. He didn’t let politics change him. He is the same guy that I’ve known for 20 years.”
By the numbers
Total raised: $11.4 million
Total spent: $3 million
Cash on hand: $8.4 million
Contributed by the candidate: $389,000
Raised from small donors: $368,000
Raised from Florida: $3 million
Raised from Miami-Dade and Broward: at least $807,000
Total raised: $12.9 million
Total spent: $2.3 million (excluding refunds)
Cash on hand: $9.9 million
Refunded to Senate contributors: $822,000
Raised from small donors: $2 million
Raised from Florida: $1.9 million
Raised from Miami-Dade and Broward: at least $730,000