Florida GOP continue to outraise state Democrats
TALLAHASSEE - Heading into a crucial election year, the two main political parties in Florida took large checks from gambling companies, insurers and other special interests during the first three months of the year. But still the overall fundraising totals were somewhat lackluster - especially for Republicans - in comparison to the money the party raised during 2011. State campaign finance reports filed late Tuesday showed that the Republican Party of Florida raised nearly $2.96 million during the first quarter of this year, while the Florida Democratic Party reported raising $1.15 million during the same period. It was the lowest quarterly total reported by Republicans since 2009. But it also coincided with a time when Gov. Rick Scott reported raising more than $900,000 for a political committee that will assist him in his re-election effort. Scott held a major fundraiser for his committee just last week in Sarasota.The money taken in by both parties will be important during a critical election year when all 160 seats in the Florida Legislature are up because of redistricting. Large checks from companies and other corporations cannot be used by the state party for any federal races in Florida. Brannon Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Democrats, contended that the fundraising advantage for Republicans "does not translate into electoral success" since Democrats last year won mayoral races. "Smart strategic investments trump fundraising and money can't buy approval for the GOP's extreme agenda," Jordan said. Legislative leaders were barred from raising money for the party during the 60-day session that ended last month but that didn't stop many companies with a direct interest in legislation from sending money to both parties.Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gave a total of $400,000 in cash to the two parties, while companies involved in the heated battle over gambling this past session also made large donations. Lawmakers considered - and ultimately rejected - a bill that would have permitted the creation of large casinos in South Florida. Casino opponent Disney gave nearly $130,000 to Republicans, while the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which runs its own casinos in Florida, also gave the GOP a check for $125,000. Casino developer Genting gave $100,000 while another company that includes Genting executives gave Democrats $150,000. Other major players that donated money include utilities, unions, U.S. Sugar and charter school companies. Charter Schools USA donated more than $50,000 to the Republicans while the GOP-controlled Legislature was considering a bill to steer school district money to charter schools. Koch Industries, the company affiliated with the Koch brothers, also donated $40,000 to the Republican Party.