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Diehl now says his campaign won’t take public funds after opting into taxpayer-backed financing program

Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl.Steven Senne/Associated Press

A day after state officials said he opted into a taxpayer-funded campaign financing program, Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl said Thursday that neither he nor his running mate will actually accept any public funds for their campaigns.

The move is an unusual one within the decades-old program, through which more than 110 candidates have received public money, including Democrats, Republicans, and unenrolled candidates.

An aide to Diehl, a former state lawmaker who has run on calls to ease the burden on taxpayers, said he joined the state’s public financing program in a bid to “limit the role of outside money on the race” even though the program doesn’t place limits on super PAC or other forms of outside spending.


Participating candidates must agree to spending caps for their own campaigns — for gubernatorial candidates, that’s $1.5 million in both the primary and general election periods. The funding comes from taxpayers who voluntarily divert $1 to the program from the state income taxes they owe.

But the limits they agreed to can be flexible. If a candidate’s opponents do not join the program, a participating candidate is then only limited to spending up to their opponents’ self-imposed maximum, which must be disclosed to state officials by Friday.

Diehl was the only gubernatorial candidate to opt into the program, and one of five statewide. Leah Allen, a lieutenant governor candidate and Diehl’s running mate, also opted into the program.

Republican businessman Chris Doughty, Diehl’s primary opponent, has so far poured more than $1 million of his own money into his campaign and had $883,000 in cash on hand at the end of May. Diehl had $55,359, and has so far raised the least amount of money this year of any of the state’s four major gubernatorial hopefuls.

Amanda Orlando, Diehl’s campaign manager, said in a statement Thursday that he and Allen “made a strategic decision to try to limit the role of outside money on the race” by agreeing to the spending limits and “thereby challenging our opponents to do the same.” The intent, she said, was to ensure the race is about “who has the best vision for the future of our state, not who has the biggest bank account.”


While candidates who participate agree to spending limits, the program puts no such caps on what outside groups could pour into the race through a super PAC.

“We want people to know that the Diehl and Allen campaigns have not accepted any public money,” Orlando said, “and they both pledge not to take one single penny of taxpayer money for their campaigns.”

Orlando declined further comment beyond the statement.

Diehl’s decision to join the financing program meant he could potentially receive hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead of the Sept. 6 primary. State officials said there is roughly $1 million available, which would be evenly split between the primary and general election. If Diehl submits paperwork showing he hit a certain threshold in his fundraising, only his campaign would receive public funds for the primary.

While Diehl agreed to participate, a spokesman for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance said eligible candidates can choose not to take “the additional steps necessary” in order to receive the taxpayer funds. Candidates, for example, must submit a list showing at least $75,000 in qualifying matching contributions in order to be certified and get public funding.


News of Diehl’s decision to opt into the program on Wednesday had drawn criticism from at least one Republican opponent. Kate Campanale, who is running for lieutenant governor and as Doughty’s running mate, accused Diehl on Wednesday of seeking out a “taxpayer funded bailout.”

“Surprising,” she wrote on Twitter, “since he calls himself a fiscal conservative.”

Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.