Campaign leftovers boost charities
By CHASE SQUIRES
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001
When three Pasco County Republicans emerged victorious in last fall's state representative races, area schools, churches and charities shared in the victory as part of the traditional giveaway of unused campaign funds.
With the final campaign finance reports from that race filed and the books closed on the campaign accounts, the full picture of local donations is available.
As they close their accounts, candidates are allowed to carry over $5,000 to run their offices, but the rest must be given away to charities or the state.
Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, doled out the most, according to figures filed with the state Department of Elections. He also raised the most, $285,911 for a run against a challenger who quit before the election and a write-in candidate who raised less than $3,000.
To the Pasco County Education Foundation, he gave $13,121 worth of furniture purchased for his campaign office, then left unused when there wasn't a strong challenge.
He also handed out $15,450 in cash, including $3,000 to the church he attends, Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, $1,000 to the Salvation Army and $2,500 to Covenant Christian Church.
Other donations of $500 to $2,500 went to the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, AFIRE of Pasco, Dayspring Academy charter school, the Good Samaritan Clinic, Pasco Cadet Squadron and the Florida Sheriffs' Youth Ranch. Another $2,000 went for playground equipment for Sunray Elementary School.
State Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Dade City, gave away $3,560 of the $133,000 he raised. Of that, $590 went to Calvary Assembly of God Church, $1,122 to the East Pasco Habitat for Humanity, $1,000 to the East Pasco YMCA, and $500 to the East Pasco Medical Foundation.
State Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R.-New Port Richey, gave away $6,300 left from the $141,249 in cash she raised.
But instead of a few large gifts, she divided her money into 35 donations ranging from $50 to $600. Many recipients were public schools on the county's west side. She also donated to hospice, Kiwanis, deaf services, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Red Cross, and $700 to three Christian churches.
Fasano said he strives to give money to charities that aren't usually supported by the state or other funding agencies. As for giving to his own church, Fasano said he believes in the church's mission and in the charity work the church performs. He said he gave the money with no strings attached, trusting the church will do good things with it.
"It's a shame my opponent waited so long to drop out," Fasano said. "I would have loved to have given away more."
Fiorentino said she didn't have as much to give away at the end as others, but she wanted to reach as many causes as she could. Many of her donations were of the $50 variety, given to public school funds that provide clothing or school supplies for needy children.
"It doesn't sound like a lot, but I know what even that can do to help," she said. "I saw a lot of needs."
Littlefield said he tries to give money where a clear need has emerged in the community. The YMCA's bid to offer services in Dade City has been in the news for the past year, and Littlefield said he supports the YMCA's mission.
"You want to do as much good as you can with what you have," Littlefield said.
Fasano is preparing for a run at a state Senate seat. Littlefield has already filed papers to run for re-election, and Fiorentino said she is planning to file the papers for a re-election bid soon.
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