A last-minute fundraising frenzy
Lobbyists in Tallahassee spent Monday dashing from one fundraiser to the next, as dozens of legislators beat the clock and held one last "reception" before the money must stop changing hands. A rule in effect since the mid-1990s prohibits legislators running for re-election or for another state office from soliciting or accepting contributions during the 60-day session that begins Tuesday.
Asked what lobbyists get for their $500 donations, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, said: "Access -- an opportunity to come and explain your issue to me. You'd have it anyway, but they just think that it gets them better access and more access. But you would get access anyway, regardless."
Gibbons cited the high cost of campaigns and said House members, who run every two years, face the most intense pressure to constantly raise money. "We run every two years and that's not a lot of time. This creates a lot of pressure, because you know the other guys are doing the same thing," Gibbons said.
Lobbyist Ron Book counted 46 separate fundraisers -- all within a few blocks of the Capitol. "It's been an expensive day," Book said as he left one fundraiser for another. At Sharkey's Restaurant, four Democrats, including Rep. Mike Scionti of Tampa. held a joint fundraiser. "I try to represent my constituents, and if that coincides with those interests, great," Scionti said.
[Photo, top: Rep. Leonard Bembry, left ,(D) Greenville, gets a campaign fundraising check during a fund raiser at Sharkey's Coffee and Bistro in Tallahassee from lobbyist Ron Book of Tallahassee. Middle: Florida Senator Victor Crist, (R), Tampa, left, meets with lobbyists, left to right: Gary Bradford, Matt Puckett and David Murrell, all with the Florida Police Benevolent Association, Inc, Tallahassee during a fund raiser for Crist at Associated Industries of Florida, in Tallahassee. The basket in the foreground holds donors contribution checks for Crist's upcoming campaign in Hillsborough County. Bottom: Rep. Ron Saunders, (D), Key West gives a fund raising check to his fellow Representative Michael Scionti, (D). Scott Keeler, Times]