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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Early look at Mike Pence's Florida donor network: Rick Scott, charter schools, private prisons and Publix

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaign in Westfield, Ind.

Damon Winter | New York Times

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaign in Westfield, Ind.



We don't know how Floridians feel about Mike Pence as a potential vice president, but it's clear the Republican governor of Indiana has a lot of reasons to like the Sunshine State.

As buzz grows about Donald Trump naming Pence his vice presidential pick, Pence's campaign finance reports offer an early look at a massive network of Florida donors.

From 2009, when Pence was running for his final term in Congress, through March of this year, Pence collected $888,645 from more than 300 Florida residents and businesses, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

He’s picked up more campaign cash from Florida than any other state, except Indiana and Washington, D.C.

By and large, Pence’s donors are big players in Florida politics as well. They include major companies, lobbyists — even the governor.

In February, Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave Pence $5,000. Three days earlier, the governors both attended an event at the Tripp Scott law firm in Fort Lauderdale. Tripp Scott donated $5,000 to Pence and its founder Norman Tripp gave $1,000.

The governor’s check is unusual. Scott has never given more than $500 to a Florida candidate other than himself.

The two Republican governors have crossed paths before at Republican Governors Association events. Melissa Stone, Scott’s former chief of staff-turned political consultant, did not immediately respond to requests for information about the contribution.

Pence’s biggest Florida boosters are Palm Beach County multimillionaires Lawrence DeGeorge and Suzanne Niedland-DeGeorge. The couple has given Pence’s gubernatorial re-election campaign $200,000. Indiana has no maximum campaign contribution.

Charter Schools USA, which is based in Florida, donated $12,000 to Pence. Its CEO, Jonathan Hage, threw in another $10,000. Lawmakers in both Indiana and Florida have aggressively pursued charter schools, and the company operates three schools in struggling Indianapolis neighborhoods.

Private prison operator GEO Group gave Pence $37,500, and the company’s CEO, George Zoley, gave $5,000. The Boca Raton-based company runs two prisons in the Hoosier State.

Even Florida's famous grocery store, Publix, has given to Pence, though the nearest place for Hoosiers to get their Pub Sub fix is in Clarksville, Tenn.

In 2010, when Pence was running for his final term in Congress as chair of the conservative House Republican Conference, Publix gave him $5,000. (Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam chaired the conference just before Pence.)

Tampa Electric Company donated $5,000 just last year. Red Apple Development, which wants to build a 41-story tower in St. Petersburg, gave $10,000. 

Akshay Desai, founder of the now-bankrupt St. Petersburg company Universal Health Care, gave Pence $5,000 in 2012 as his company was starting to crumble.

FCCI Insurance Group, based in Sarasota, gave $16,000. John Childs, a Vero Beach mega-donor to Republican causes, donated $125,000.

Even one of Tallahassee’s most influential lobbyists has given to Pence: Ron Book, whose daughter Lauren Book is about to become a Democratic state senator, donated $5,000.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2016 5:56pm]


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