The failed campaign and expansive political operation aiming to make Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis the Republican nominee for the White House cost $168 million, according to filings reported to the Federal Election Commission late Wednesday.
The pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down reported payments of more than $130.6 million in 2023 while a newer super PAC Fight Right reported $9.6 million between mid November and December. His own campaign spent $28.3 million from May to December.
DeSantis relied on support from outside groups more than any other major candidate since a U.S. Supreme Court 2010 ruling paved the way for super PACs. These political action committees can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors, including corporations, to advocate for and against candidates, but federal law prohibits candidates and their formal campaigns from coordinating directly with super PACs.
DeSantis ended his campaign last month after losing to former President Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses by 30 points. He had launched his campaign with high expectations as a high-profile governor who had amassed with his allies more than $130 million and had a record for taking on conservative issues such as abortion and the teaching of race and gender topics in schools.
But he struggled in the primary starting with a glitchy campaign launch on Twitter Spaces and financial pressures and staffing shakeups. DeSantis also faced concerns of blurring the lines of what is allowed by campaign laws. A nonpartisan government watchdog group alleged in a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission that there was coordination and communication between the campaign and the super PAC backing him. Never Back Down orchestrated much of the on-the ground-work for DeSantis. It received more than $80 million from a committee backing his successful 2022 gubernatorial reelection. Meanwhile, Fight Right was created by DeSantis’ Florida allies for TV advertising. It paid for ads to attack former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is still running against Trump.