Florida's economy may be rocky, but corporations are flooding the coffers of the party that controls virtually every lever of power in state government.
The Republican Party of Florida raised $4.9 million in the first three months of 2011. That's four times as much as the Florida Democratic Party and over $1 million more than the state Republican Party did at this point in the last presidential election cycle.
Campaign contributions tend to open doors in the Legislature, and some of Florida's biggest businesses showed their generosity to Republicans in the months before the 2011 session convened: $250,000 to the state party from Florida Power & Light, $200,000 from Progress Energy and $180,000 from TECO Energy — utilities keenly interested in a renewable energy bill that would allow hefty rate increases. Blue Cross Blue Shield, closely involved in health care overhauls and state employee benefits, gave $250,000, and the political action committee of the Florida Chamber of Commerce gave $200,000.
Democrats have little influence left on state policies and it showed in the party's $1.2 million fundraising total. Even the reliably pro-Democratic American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $50,000 to the Republican Party and $5,000 to the Democrats.
The Democratic Party's biggest donor was STM Consulting, a Jacksonville construction and management company that gave $120,000. Other donors: Blue Cross Blue Shield, $100,000; FPL, $75,000; TECO, $62,500; AT&T, $40,000; and Joseph Strasser, a retired government employee in Jacksonville, $40,000.
Factoring in political committees and lawmakers' campaign accounts, FPL doled out at least $313,000. Blue Cross Blue Shield contributed even more: at least $449,000 in the first quarter to the parties, lawmakers and political committees.
The Democratic Party spent more than $1 million in the first quarter, including tens of thousands to help elect a Democratic mayor of Jacksonville.
The Republican Party spent $2.6 million in that period, including $132,000 for legal expenses, $61,000 to the pollster Gov. Rick Scott used, and $69,000 to a consultant advising the U.S. Senate campaign of Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos. A party spokesman said the money was not for work on the Haridopolos campaign.