Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Capitol's dash for cash: Florida lawmakers race against time, picking up checks

TALLAHASSEE — The race for campaign cash shifted into high gear Monday as dozens of state legislators sought contributions from lobbyists before today's start of the legislative session when such fundraising is banned for two months.

Under legislative rules, senators and House members cannot solicit or accept money for their campaigns during session because the proximity of votes being cast and money changing hands would look unseemly. 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 on matters affecting those lobbyists.

"The logic is inconsistent," said Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida, a watchdog group. "They're bumping up against their self-imposed deadlines, so they're out there with their hands open."

During three weeks in February when lawmakers held committee meetings, they held 47 fundraisers, many of which involved multiple lawmakers.

Lobbyists counted 13 separate fundraisers Monday, one of which included 11 Republican House members from Miami-Dade.

The Legislature last year increased the maximum campaign contribution to its members from $500 to $1,000 and required all donations to be publicly reported more frequently.

Throughout the day, 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.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and three other House Democrats spent the lunch hour greeting lobbyists such as Paul Jess, a longtime advocate for trial lawyers. Jess 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; McBurney chairs a House budget committee that oversees criminal justice spending.

McBurney allowed a Times/Herald reporter to attend his midday event, which included Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, who also sits on the budget panel that McBurney chairs, dealing with funding for courts, state attorneys and public defenders.

House Democrats held a "pre-session roundup" at the private Governor's Club. Senate Democrats held a happy hour "Drop, Drink, Dash" event there.

"It's an opportunity for a lot of folks to speak with the advocates," said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who emphasized she was headed back to the Capitol on legislative business.

A group of Pinellas County Republicans, including Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and his son, Chris, a House candidate, held an evening event at a city park called "The Last Round-Up." The other beneficiaries were Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, and Rep. Ed Hooper, a Pinellas County Commission candidate.

Three other well-attended events in the capital Monday were not fundraisers.

The Republican Party of Florida hosted a business leaders "fly-in" featuring Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Over lunch, Scott emphasized the importance of keeping the governorship in GOP control heading into the 2016 presidential election.

The NAACP hosted "Morality Monday" as labor and civil rights activists converged on the Capitol to call attention to expanding Medicaid and protecting voting rights. The tea party-backed Americans for Prosperity held a rally calling for tax cuts, overhauling the state pension system and expanding school choice.

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18