By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
State Rep. Chris Dorworth, R- Lake Mary, has been making some big money from special interests for his political action committee, while simultaneously facing some personally tough financial times as a real estate agent in Florida. However, an amendment he sponsored is expected to help him and other real estate agents in the state recover from tough economic times.
Amendment 4, which will be on the November ballot, is also expected to level a massive blow to the finances of local governments in the state.
Steve Bousquet at The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald profiled Dorworth this week, as well as his political fund, Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy. He writes that has been successful in fundraising for his $1 million fund as of late, and it has enabled Dorworth to pay for “airplane trips and catered meals, using unrestricted political donations from an array of interests that covet his support, from citrus growers to health care insurers to law firms to Internet cafes.”
And it’s a lot of money, too. On July 5 this year, Disney gave Dorworth an $80,000 check.
However, Bousquet writes that Dorworth has been skillfull in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but his own finances have been struggling.
Dorworth, 36, is a real estate investor and business consultant who faced major financial losses on a couple of big projects. The father of two children, he is in the midst of a contentious and widely publicized divorce.
Dorworth reported earning $186,000 last year as a business consultant, but listed losses of $235,000 on two business projects. “Like just everybody else, the real estate industry forced me to restructure my finances,” Dorworth said. “I’m not impoverished.”
Most importantly, Bousquet writes that this is all legal and lax rules are to blame:
Like dozens of legislators, he is taking advantage of lax campaign finance laws that allow him to control a political fund, known as a committee of continuous existence or CCE, that’s exempt from the $500 contribution limit that applies to candidates.
Dorworth’s political fund has few restrictions on how money can be spent, as long as it advances the committee’s broadly worded objective: “to promote effective leadership to maintain a strong and enterprising democracy,” as the fund’s bylaws state.
Even though Dorworth cannot personally gain from this political fund, there is no safeguard in place that would stop him from writing legislation that he can gain from personally.
In November, Floridians will vote for a constitutional amendment that would make it more appealing to buy a house in Florida by giving generous tax breaks to first-time home buyers and people who have homestead exemptions. The amendment, Amendment 4, was written by Dorworth, who, as Bousquet explained, is a real estate agent with financial troubles.
Amendment 4 could also damage to the finances of local governments, which rely heavily on property taxes to pay for essential services. However, it would be a big boon for Dorworth and other real estate agents.
This is why the Florida Association of Realtors Advocacy PAC has thrown more than $2 million to get this constitutional amendment passed.
You can review the money supporting and opposing this amendment at FCIR’s Voters Edge Florida.