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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lawmakers battle the clock in annual pre-session money chase

Rep. Darryl Rouson (D), St. Petersburg, receives a campaign contribution from veteran lobbyist Paul Jess of the Florida Justice Association, (Trial Lawyers) at a fundraising event, Monday, March 3, 2014 in Tallahassee. Monday was the last day lawmakers could fundraise before the 2014  Florida legislative session.   SCOTT KEELER    |    Times

Rep. Darryl Rouson (D), St. Petersburg, receives a campaign contribution from veteran lobbyist Paul Jess of the Florida Justice Association, (Trial Lawyers) at a fundraising event, Monday, March 3, 2014 in Tallahassee. Monday was the last day lawmakers could fundraise before the 2014 Florida legislative session. SCOTT KEELER | Times

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The race for campaign cash shifted into high gear Monday as dozens of state legislators sought contributions from lobbyists before Tuesday’s start of the legislative session, when such fund-raising is banned for two months.

Under legislative rules, senators and House members can't solicit or accept money for their campaigns during regular legislative sessions, presumably because the proximity of votes being cast and money changing hands would look unseemly. But the result is that lawmakers increasingly use the rest of their time in Tallahassee to raise money -- especially during weeks of hearings when they are often casting significant committee votes.

Lobbyists who keep track of such things counted 13 separate events, one of which included 11 Republican House members who represent Miami-Dade.
Throughout the day Monday, a familiar scene appeared over and over in restaurants and offices ringing the Capitol as legislators held “receptions” from 11:30 a.m. into the night, greeting lobbyists who dropped off checks.

At the Andrews 228 restaurant, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and three other House Democrats spent the lunch hour greeting lobbyists such as Paul Jess, a long-time advocate for trial lawyers. He handed an envelope to a grateful Rouson, a lawyer who consistently supports the trial bar’s legislative agenda. Two doors away, Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, accepted a check from Barney Bishop, who tracks criminal justice issues for clients; McBurney chairs a House budget committee that oversees criminal justice spending.

House Democrats held a “pre-session round-up” at the private Governor’s Club and Senate Democrats held a happy hour “Drop, Drink, Dash” event there. A group of Pinellas Republicans including Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and his son Chris, a House candidate, held an event at a city park called “The Last Round-Up.” Other beneficiaries were Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, and Rep. Ed Hooper, a Pinellas County Commission candidate.

[Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2014 3:58pm]

    

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