Follow the money: Figlesthaler and the medicine men of SWFL

05-19-20 Fig on bikeDoctor without helmet: Dr. William Figlesthaler and his wife, Olga, get on their bike and ride.         (Image: Figlesthaler for Congress campaign)

May 21, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Updated with two-word correction at 12:20 pm.

In his most recent television commercial, Dr. William Figlesthaler, clad in leather, mounts his motorcycle and roars off as though in a GEICO commercial, thereby somehow proving that he’s qualified to represent Southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District in the US Congress.

Figlesthaler calls the ad, “The Race is On” and indeed it is, as the August 18 Republican primary draws nearer. But an examination of the relative fundraising prowess of the various candidates—the only public measure of their respective positions—reveals Figlesthaler in second place, according to his 1st quarter financial report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Leading the Republican pack is businessman Casey Askar who had, as of March 31, a war chest of $3,482,873.79.

But if Askar is the candidate of Collier County’s business elite (see “The Curious Case of Casey Askar”), then Figlesthaler is the candidate of SWFL’s medical establishment, which makes up the core of his support.

Despite their donations, Figlesthaler’s campaign is still largely dependent on the candidate’s personal loans.

During the reporting period, Figlesthaler loaned his campaign a total of $1,060,000 in five tranches between November 2019 and the end of the reporting period on March 31 of this year.

However, with the help of professional fundraisers like Anedot, a fundraising service based in Baton Rouge, La., Figlesthaler expanded his donor base. (To see The Paradise Progressive’s previous, Feb. 6 report on Figlesthaler’s finances see: “Follow the money: Figlesthaler’s finances and what they mean.”)

He raised $279,278.80 in 167 contributions in the first quarter, according to data processed by the FEC. That plus his loan gave him a war chest of $1,011,164.77.

Of Figlesthaler’s 167 primary election donations, 31 or roughly 19 percent, came from people in medical-related fields, primarily doctors, with a heavy representation of radiation oncologists and urologists. This does not include retired physicians and medical professionals.

One donor was Paige Kreegel, a fellow doctor, former Florida state representative and in 2012 a primary candidate in the 19th Congressional District, who kicked in $2,800 to the campaign.

Most prominently, Figlesthaler won the support of Reinhold Schmieding, president of Arthrex Inc., a medical device maker and the largest employer in Collier County, who to date has contributed the legal limit of $5,000 to the campaign.

Figlesthaler is now getting aid from medically-related political action committees (PACs) as well. The American Association of Clinical Urologists PAC (UROPAC) provided $500. The organization Friends to Elect Dr. Greg Murphy to Congress provided $2,000. (Rep. Greg Murphy (R-3-NC) is a fellow urologist and sitting member of Congress from North Carolina, where Figlesthaler did his residency.)

Another organization, Defend & Uphold Our Nation Now, contributed $500 to Figlesthaler’s campaign. This PAC is led by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-2-Fla.), a surgeon, and provides a convenient, legal cover for banking industry political contributions since it is overwhelmingly funded by the American Bankers Association, also known as BankPAC, according to the FEC.

Murphy of North Carolina, who apparently mentored and supports Figlesthaler, received $2,000 from that PAC. However, one recipient of the PAC’s largess, Republican candidate, Dan Donovan, a former representative from New York, returned a $1,000 contribution to the organization.

Figlesthaler also had to make a refund of his own during the quarter, returning $400 in contributions from a Fort Myers oncologist and his wife.

Of all 14 candidates running, Figlesthaler had the highest burn rate: $319,164.03 in expenditures. In addition to Anedot, Figlesthaler paid a wide variety of consultants for compliance, strategy, communications, advertising and media placement. He also has the most advertisements running of any candidate on local television.

Young Guns blazing

On April 28 Figlesthaler sent out an exuberant announcement: “Figlesthaler Selected to Lucrative NRCC ‘Young Guns’ Program,” making no secret of the real value he saw in being named to the Republican program, which seeks to increase the Republican portion of the US House of Representatives.

One of the main advantages of being in the Young Gun program is that it puts the candidate on a stage that may lead to campaign contributions, giving him or her exposure to the entire Republican funding network.

In that regard it can indeed be “lucrative,” as Figlesthaler points out.

Regrettably, FEC reports don’t designate which contributions may have come as a result of the Young Guns program, so it remains to be seen just how “lucrative” the program will be for Figlesthaler.

Four of the 10 Republicans running in the 19th Congressional District are in the Republican Young Guns program, which is led by House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-23-Calif.) and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

There are three levels of Young Gunness: “On the Radar,” is the lowest, with the candidates running in competitive districts who have met standards of campaign organization and show potential for advancing to the next step. Both State Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) and businessman Casey Askar are “On the Radar.”

The highest level is “Young Guns.” These people have met program goals, surpassed benchmarks and are likely to win. No Southwest Florida Republican has reached this level.

In the middle are “Contenders,” who, as the program’s website puts it: “have completed stringent program metrics and are on the path to developing a mature and competitive campaign operation.”  Contenders are in congressional seats that appear to lean Republican.

Here reside State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) and Figlesthaler.

It’s ironic that these two should be Young Guns together since Figlesthaler has been sniping at Eagle for being less than gung-ho on gun ownership. Eagle has been taking fire since December for allegedly betraying gun owners by supporting post-Parkland gun reforms in the Florida legislature. Figlesthaler accused Eagle of being receptive to former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who favors gun restrictions. Eagle shot back at Figlesthaler in an April 27 WINK-TV online debate, saying he thought Figlesthaler had been watching too much “fake news” on CNN.

The two will no doubt continue exchanging potshots.

At least on his motorcycle, Figlesthaler can remain a moving target.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg


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