Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Big business still filling state GOP coffers

TALLAHASSEE — If Florida's political landscape is any test, neither the recession, unemployment nor the state's fiscal crisis has hurt political donations.

The Republican Party of Florida collected a record $3.4 million in the second quarter, between April 1 and June 30, exceeding donations from every off-year election during the same period since 1997, when Republicans took control of the Legislature.

The Florida Democratic Party didn't have the same success, raising just $1.1 million, nearly identical to what it raised the past two off-year election cycles during the same quarter. This year, however, $426,000 of its collections came from a political action committee formed by Republicans to elect Alvin Brown, the Democratic mayor of Jacksonville.

The largest donations to Republicans came from the state's electric monopolies, health care companies, hospitals and insurers. The biggest sum came from Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy and its affiliate Florida Power & Light Co. which contributed $280,000. U.S. Sugar Corp. and its affiliates gave $275,000. Individuals and companies affiliated with Anderson Mining gave $190,000. Tenet Healthcare Corp. contributed $160,000. TECO Energy gave $145,000. And HCA and several of its Florida affiliates gave Republicans $110,000.

The largest Democratic Party donor was a group called Conservatives for a Better Jacksonville. It gave $426,000 to successfully elect Brown. The group was financed primarily by Republican fundraiser and former St. Joe Co. head Peter Rummell. Other major contributors to the Democratic Party included Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, which gave $124,624, and the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which gave $41,000.

The largest individual contribution to the GOP was $115,000 from Miguel B. Fernandez, a Coral Gables-based health care investor who last year launched a $20 million fund to invest in startup health care companies in Florida. Akshay Desai, the New Port Richey cardiologist and founder of Universal Health Care Group who was recently reappointed State Board of Education by Gov. Rick Scott, gave Republicans $90,000; and James Heavener, a real estate investor and member of Scott's inaugural committee donated $80,000.

Although Scott's impact on party fundraising was evident from friends like Heavener and appointees like Desai, the engine of the GOP's fundraising efforts continues to be the Legislature.

Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville, the Republican's designee for Senate president in 2012, said the reason for the record haul was simple: redistricting. The legislative session, which traditionally begins in March, starts in January next year and, if the session gets extended into overtime, as it did in 1992 and 2002, lawmakers will be pinched for time.

Republicans are "accelerating our efforts because we have a shorter season to raise resources and campaign," he said. By contrast, the GOP raised only $1.1 million in second-quarter fundraising in 2009 and $2.2 million in 2007.

But in Tallahassee, money means access to lawmakers.

For example, the top political priority of NextEra and Florida Power & Light is to pass legislation — it failed this year — that allows them to have control of the alternative energy market in Florida and recover the cost of building solar energy plants. They also hope to receive a rate increase before the Public Service Commission next year.

Private prison giant, the GEO Group, gave the party $100,000 after it succeeded in persuading the Legislature to privatize additional prisons in Florida. Save Our Internet Access, a political committee, donated $20,000 to Republicans and hopes to persuade them not to regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes.

Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation said that the recession has affected the ability of his members to make political contributions. "The small- to medium-sized contributors — who don't make up the bulk of the money — are having a harder time than the larger ones," he said.

But when legislative leaders call for money, lobbyists don't like to turn them down either. When asked to exceed or match what they donated before, McAllister said they typically say "times are difficult and we'll go back to our members and see what we can do. So far we've been able to make those numbers."

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached a meklas@miamiherald.com.

Big business still filling state GOP coffers 07/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 9:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. And the most-searched NFL player in Florida is ...

    Bucs

    The Bucs just faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason, and open their 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins. So with the state's NFL competition ahead of and just behind the Bucs, who do you think is the NFL player most searched on Google by Floridians?

    Fans react with excitement moments after the Bucs announce their first-round pick at the team's 2016 NFL draft party. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Video captures shark attack on seal at crowded beach

    Nation

    ORLEANS, Mass. — A shark attack on a seal at a Cape Cod beach sent beachgoers scrambling, and surfers a few yards away had to frantically swim to shore.

    Thayer Wade captured video of  a shark attacking a seal off a Cape Cod beach. His uncle Pat O'Brien shared the video on Twitter.
  3. Florida firefighter spears giant 409-pound grouper in St. Pete Beach competition

    Wildlife

    ST. PETERSBURG — It took six sets of hands to drag a 409-pound Warsaw Grouper to the stage.

    James Taylor, a Bradenton firefighter, speared a 409-pound grouper near St. Pete Beach during a competition over the weekend. (Courtesy of Michelle Taylor)
  4. Don't know what to do with those eclipse glasses? Donate them.

    Human Interest

    Those who were able to snag a pair of coveted solar eclipse glasses for Monday's event witnessed a moment in history. But now that the eclipse is over, many are left wondering: What do I do with my …

    Workers pass out eclipse viewing glasses during a solar eclipse party on August 21, 2017 at the Museum of Science and Industry, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa experienced a partial eclipse. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Times]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion

    National

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]