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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Where Tom Lee's 527 Money Went



Senate President Tom Lee has finally shifted $1-million from his 527 soft-money committee to another 527 controlled by his designated successor, Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

The transfer took place Sept. 1, the day after the contribution deadline for the recent Republican primary for chief financial officer in which Lee beat Rep. Randy Johnson. The website of Lee's committee,, shows a shift of $1,030,000 from Floridians United for a Stronger Tomorrow to a group called the Partnership for Economic Freedom, a Senate 527 whose officers are Pruitt and (get this) Sen. Alex Villalobos of Miami, dating to a time when he was the favorite to succeed Pruitt as Senate president.

Lee said he would not use the $1-million to boost his CFO campaign, and he didn't. But by letting that heaping pile of soft money sit there on the Internet until he defeated Johnson, itappears that Lee wanted to position the money as a way of intimidating Johnson (Lee had raised the money to protect GOP senators from attacks in the 2004 cycle). But now, Lee says in a statement, the balance can "be used at his (Pruitt's) direction." Pruitt said he plans to use the money to support the campaigns of Republican senators.

The most competitive races appear to be in Pinellas-Hillsborough (Republican Kim Berfield and Democrat Charlie Justice) and in the Gainesville area (Republican Steve Oelrich and Democrat Ed Jennings). A million bucks can purchase a lot of 30-second ads in either of those two TV markets.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:46pm]


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