Internet cafes become major political players

Internet cafe industry has already poured more than $700,000 into campaigns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With the general election just a few months away, internet cafes are becoming heavy hitters on the campaign trail.

They've donated almost a million dollars to Florida lawmakers, on both sides of the fence and these controversial cafes really want to make a mark.

"1,600, 500, 20, ten dollar, it really doesn't matter know what I mean," internet café supporter Tony Coleman said.

That's how much Colemen has won from local internet cafes, which initially opened in Florida in 2006, but remain a controversial entity to this day

Republican lawmaker Dennis Baxley from Ocala calls them, "A cancer in Florida that's growing at a rapid rate."

He's just one of many lawmakers frustrated that their efforts to ban cafes have failed up to this point. Now it appears the cafes are fighting back with their earnings.

According to a campaign finance report, the internet cafe industry has already poured more than $700,000 to campaigns for both Democrats and Republicans.

The money has caused some concern. Representative Scott Plakon of Longwood had this to say:

"They have a right to participate in our process and I support that. But if you start seeing large amounts going to certain candidates or elected officials, I think you start wondering about that."

Channel 4 wanted to talk to owners at the internet cafe off University Boulevard about cafe contributions, but owners didn't want us on property.

"It gives you something to do," café customer Miss Cookie said. "My husband is retired so it gives you something to do."

"The loophole that keeps them in business is that they give you a free dollar every day to gamble with each day," café customer Bob Lanier said. "That's basically what I do is gamble that dollar and I've won money on it."

Experts said political action committees have been formed making it harder to trace campaign cash.

There's no limit to the amount of money that can contributed by a committee and the true identities of those on the committees' campaign reports aren't always evident.

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