Follow the money: Ford O’Connell’s finances and what they mean

02-12-20 Ford O'Connell on FoxFord O’Connell appearing on the Fox Business Network.

Feb. 12, 2020 by David Silverberg

The campaign of Republican congressional candidate Ford O’Connell raised $310,205 in the fourth quarter of 2019, the third-highest amount of funds of all candidates in the 19th Congressional District, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Of that amount, $200,000 came in a loan to the campaign made by the candidate.

The other $110,205 was made in 139 separate donations. However, of these donations, 60 or 43 percent, were made through Winred, a conservative, online, pass-through political action committee (PAC) based in Arlington, Va.

Winred describes itself on its website as “a conduit PAC coupled with proven fundraising technology. The advanced lead optimization and donation platform increases engagement and maximizes your fundraising by leveraging a conservative ecosystem in the millions.” Put another way, users from any location can donate to any Republican candidate online.

As a result, $74,875 of O’Connell’s contributions came from anonymous donors outside the district. Of his total contributions, $44,100 came from Florida and of that, only $25,600 from 16 donors came from within the 19th Congressional District and all of those were from Naples.

As of Jan. 31, O’Connell had spent $3,173.03 on his campaign, all of it with Winred.

Analysis: What it means

O’Connell came late to this party, only filing his candidacy with the FEC on Dec. 6. He hasn’t had much time to fundraise or organize his campaign.

However, in early January he hired Sean Kempton as deputy campaign manager. Kempton, a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, served on the 2018 campaign of Gov. Ron Desantis (R) and later in his administration. One presumes that this means O’Connell will be trying to build a grassroots field operation.

As demonstrated by his fundraising, O’Connell doesn’t appear to have a network of local donors, so he is using online means to raise funds nationally.

O’Connell told the political website Ballotpedia that his three goals in office are: fighting for President Trump; protecting the quality of life in Southwest Florida (as he put it: “Southwest Florida first!”); and “draining the swamp.”

Accordingly, O’Connell’s platform is one of straight Trumpism and doesn’t deviate or vary from the Trumpist line. He deprecates Democrats, wants to protect national sovereignty from illegal immigrants, and boasts of being a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

The only way that O’Connell stands out from the other Trumper candidates in the 19th Congressional District to date is in the vehemence and volume of his Trumpism rather than its substance. O’Connell appears to be channeling his idol and adopting his campaign approach of personalizing his attacks, (“I have a feeling that some people might actually want to go back to Tallahassee rather than stay in this, what is going to be an epic dog fight,”—a shot at Dane Eagle), demonizing the opposition (“Democrats are the party of illegal immigration…”), and playing the apocalyptic paranoid card (“President Trump is our last hope for conservative governance for the foreseeable future in this country.”).

O’Connell’s attacks on immigration are ironic in light of his grandfather Henry Salvatori’s immigration from Italy to the United States, where he built a successful petroleum company, as well as the Irish origins of O’Connell’s name.

O’Connell’s only reference to a local issue is on his website where he pledges, “I will advocate and fight for the highest level of federal funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).” Otherwise, his issues are all national in scope.

Given that all his local donors were based in Naples, it appears that O’Connell doesn’t have any roots or organization in Fort Myers, Cape Coral or anywhere in Lee County.

Given the lateness of his entry, his lack of a ground game and his background in television punditry, it is most likely that O’Connell will hold his main fire until later in the season and then attempt a broadcast blitz, trying to overwhelm his opponents with television advertising. However, since broadcast purchasing can eat up a lot of money very fast he will have to do much better fundraising if he’s to have the resources to do that.

Substantively and from a policymaking stand point there’s nothing to distinguish O’Connell from the other Trumpers in the race. He has little local name recognition or roots in the community. He does have $200,000 worth of skin in the game—and it will be interesting to see what that can buy him in the 19th Congressional District.

Coming: Randy Henderson and the video that went viral

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

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