Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Here's a fundraising twist: Judges out-raising lawmakers so far in 2012

TALLAHASSEE — In this topsy-turvy political year, the first quarter state fundraising numbers produced another surprise.

The top fundraisers weren't politicians or elected officials. They were three of Florida's Supreme Court justices, who face merit retention in November and fear being targeted by opposition groups that can swoop in with last-minute campaigns attempting to oust them from the bench.

Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince each raised between $156,000 to $161,000 since they first opened their merit retention accounts in January, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Division of Elections late Tuesday.

While most of it was raised, predictably, from lawyers and law firms, it's an amount that when combined "ranks among the most ever for a retention race,'' said Dan Stengle, legal counsel for the justices' merit retention campaigns. Lewis raised $161,638, Quince raised $156,518 and Pariente raised $158,173.

By contrast, the first quarter fundraising returns produced lower than normal numbers for Florida's political parties, as legislators were forced into a self-imposed fundraising ban during an early legislative session, and Gov. Rick Scott steered cash to his political committee.

The Republican Party of Florida raised $2.9 million in the first fundraising quarter of the year, substantially down from the $7.4 million raised in the previous quarter when legislative leaders weren't bound by a legislative fundraising ban. By contrast, Scott raised $1.3 million for his "Let's Get to Work" committee in the period from Jan. 1 through March 31 alone.

The Florida Democratic Party raised $1.1 million for the quarter, down slightly from the $1.7 million raised for the preceding quarter.

The big money for Republicans came from the legislative issues conveniently punted to another year: bringing destination resort casinos to Florida, giving optometrists prescription powers and deciding which giant health insurers will compete for a piece of the Medicaid reform pie.

Fundraising for open House and Senate seats was also active, as candidates for many of the more than two dozen open seats collected cash unbridled by the fundraising ban. The biggest winners there: Monticello businessman Halsey Beshears, who reported raising $108,268 in his bid to win a largely rural House district that includes all or parts of 10 North Florida counties; and former Democratic Rep. Kevin Radar of West Palm Beach, who has announced to run against Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs of Boca Raton. Radar, who raised $72,205, also is eyeing the newly drawn minority access seat in Palm Beach County.

Those seats won't be final, however, until the Florida Supreme Court decides whether to approve the latest version of the Senate map, redrawn last month after the court rejected the first try for violating the new Fair Districts standards approved by voters in 2010.

But in an ironic twist, the judges, not the politicians, spent more time on the fundraising circuits.

Florida high court justices face merit retention votes every six years. Voters get a straight yes or no vote on retention. Each of the justices facing vote has faced it before. But, Stengle said, this time things are different.

"Our fair and impartial courts are increasingly being targeted by groups seeking to increase political influence over court rulings,'' he said. "The same group that waged a last-minute stealth campaign against two of our Florida Supreme Court justices in 2010 announced its intent to remove all three justices who will be on the ballot in November."

The announced opposition is from a group called Restore Justice 2012, a political committee run by Orlando tea party activist Jesse Phillips. He ran the unsuccessful campaign in 2010 to remove Supreme Court Justices Jorge Labarga and James E.C. Perry. The organization's website says it has the support of a number of other conservative groups.

Restore Justice's website claims "the Florida State Supreme Court has taken upon itself to decide matters lawfully left to voters to decide. They have disenfranchised every voter in the state on multiple occasions, and greatly overstepped their constitutional limitations, proving that they truly are one of the most activist courts in the nation."

Unlike politicians, Florida's justices are barred from soliciting funds themselves but must instead appoint a committee to handle all campaign finances. Contributions are limited to $500 per person and the justices are not allowed to endorse each other. They also must maintain separate campaign accounts, although they are allowed to coordinate and share campaign expenses.

Since the merit system was adopted in the 1970s, few justices have had to conduct campaigns.

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

Donations so far

Top Florida fundraisers for Jan. 1 — March 31, 2012:

• Republican Party of Florida: $2.9 million

• Florida Democratic Party: $1.1 million

• Gov. Rick Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee: $1.3 million

• Justice R. Fred Lewis: $161,638

• Justice Barbara Pariente: $158,173

• Justice Peggy Quince: $156,518

• Democratic Senate candidate, Kevin Radar, West Palm Beach: $72,205

• Republican Senate candidate Rob Bradley, Fleming Island, $70,000

Source: Florida Division of Elections

Here's a fundraising twist: Judges out-raising lawmakers so far in 2012 04/11/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022

    Business

    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]
  2. Late Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella was a fighter until the end

    Swimming Preps

    At swim meets, Cailin Cannella would race side-by-side with her breastroke competitors, their heads bobbing in near unison.

    Holy Names swimmer Cailin Cannella, here at age 13, still was practicing last year after finding out she had osteosarcoma (bone cancer). [Times 2016]
  3. Gators roundtable: Was that really a Hail Mary?

    College

    Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks' last-second heave beat Tennessee Saturday in Gainesville, but was it a Hail Mary, typically a pass made in desperation with little chance of success? The Times' college football coveage team weighs in:

    NO, BUT IT WAS A MIRACLE

    Feleipe Franks #13 of the Florida Gators celebrates with his teammates after he threw a 63-yard pass at the end of the game to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
  4. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection

    Columns

    Everyone ends up with a favorite

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, however, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]
  5. Tonight: St. Petersburg's six City Council candidates face off

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Politics took a break in Hurricane Irma, but now it's time for City Council races to get going. The Council of Neighborhood Associations is set to host a candidate forum for the six candidates vying for three council seats at stake in November.