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Victory wasn't cheap for big-spending Florida Republican Party

TALLAHASSEE — Just before and after its big win at the polls in November, the Florida Republican Party collected big and spent even bigger: $9.4 million.

New campaign finance reports show the party spared little expense on consultants, travel, and the nearly $3 million inauguration of new Gov. Rick Scott.

And it was all worth it, said outgoing party chairman John Thrasher.

"The point of a political party is to win elections — and that's what we did," said Thrasher, a state senator from St. Augustine. "I'm retiring as party chair in a few days, undefeated."

The Florida Democratic Party, smashed at the polls this last election, had not reported its contributions and expenditures as of late Monday.

The biggest recipient of all the Republican cash: Majority Strategies, a Ponte Vedra Beach-based direct-mail and consulting firm that pulled in almost $2.7 million from Oct. 29 to Dec. 31.

Hargrove Inc., the Maryland event company, earned the second-highest amount in the fourth quarter — $602,000 — for staging Scott's inauguration. OnMessage Inc., a media company employed by Scott, reaped $357,000, and M.A.C. Research, a company controlled by Scott's newly named chief policy adviser Mary Ann Carter, pulled in $175,000 for consulting services.

Thrasher said he wasn't sure what Carter's company did for the money, but Scott's inaugural committee spokeswoman, Erin Isaac, said the payments accounted for salary, meals, projects, lodging and subcontractor work.

Scott also pledged to donate to the Wounded Warriors project for veterans, and it received $160,000.

Other consultants tied to other politicians also raked in big sums. Data Targeting, a firm allied with Senate President Mike Haridopolos, was the third-highest recipient, with $372,000 in work. And Public Concepts, a longtime consultant for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, performed $267,000 worth of work.

The party spent more than the $7.7 million it raised from a who's who of special interests in the state Capitol: Blue Cross Blue Shield, $525,000; Florida Power & Light's Nextera Energy, $250,000; U.S. Sugar Corp., $200,000; Florida Crystals, $175,000; and Amway founder and school voucher champion Richard Devos, $100,000.

What did the donors want in return for their contributions?

"They want good government," Thrasher said. "It's all above-board and it's all transparent and out in the open."

Times staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report. Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@miamiherald.com.

Victory wasn't cheap for big-spending Florida Republican Party 01/10/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 10:46pm]
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