Florida parties rake in millions for primaries
GOP raises four times more than Democrats in recent months
Florida Republicans took in more than $9 million in the crucial run-up to this year's primary elections, significantly more than Florida Democrats who reported raising nearly $2.2 million during the last four months.
Both parties filed fundraising reports Friday that cover donations and expenses from April 1 to early August.
The two main political parties took in large donations from many of Florida's influential corporations, including many that usually are involved in battles in the Florida Legislature. Those deeply involved in gambling issues also gave money.
Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who helped out Newt Gingrich in his presidential bid and has since given money to help Mitt Romney, donated $250,000 in June to the Republican Party. Las Vegas Sands, which is owned by Adelson, was one of the companies that supported a bill this past year to bring large casinos to South Florida.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which opposed the casino bill, also gave $250,000 to Republicans and $5,000 to Democrats. Companies affiliated with Genting, a Malaysian company that owns major casinos in Asia and wants to build one in Miami, gave $50,000 to the Democrats and $70,000 to the Republicans.
One of the largest donors in the last few months was Progress Energy.
The North Carolina utility gave $560,000 in cash to the Republicans and $55,000 to the Democrats. Progress recently merged with Duke Energy, although the merger has come under the scrutiny of regulators because hours after the merger took effect Duke's board voted to oust the CEO they had officially appointed.
The decision by Progress to give such a large amount of money in one small period of fundraising to the GOP stunned one Republican who has been battling with the company.
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has tried unsuccessfully for years to get lawmakers to repeal a law that allows companies such as Progress to charge consumers for nuclear power plants that may not get built.
"That's outrageous," said Fasano. "They poor-mouth, yet they can find a half-a-million dollars to give to the party. If that doesn't send a resounding message to homeowners and consumers, I don't know what will."
A phone call to Progress Energy was not immediately returned.
Other big donors to the parties include HCA, Disney, U.S. Sugar, AT&T, and Florida Power & Light. The Democrats also took in donations from several unions, including $100,000 from the union that represents state workers.
The millions reported Friday to state officials by the two parties is separate from their fundraising accounts for federal elections.
Despite the GOP's sizable fundraising advantage, the Democrats insist they will have resources to compete in this year's legislative races.
"Florida Democrats are fielding one of the largest, strongest, most diverse slate of candidates our state has ever seen," said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party. "We are entering the fall season in an excellent position to break the GOP's supermajority and with the resources we need to win."
The reports do show that the Republican Party of Florida actually spent more than it took in during the last four months. Republicans spent nearly $11 million since April, including nearly $1 million on television ads that touted Gov. Rick Scott. Yet despite the ad blitz Scott's popularity ratings has not increased substantially.
Since April the Democrats spent $1.44 million which was used to pay for staff, consultants, rent and other expenses.
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