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RPOF raises $2.9 million and Dems bring in $1.3 million for quarter

Florida’s political parties faced a more subdued fundraising quarter to begin this year 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 preceeding 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. 

Universal Studios dished out $180,000 in in-kind gifts to the party, followed by $127,500 from Disney Worldwide Services, which fought mightily to stave off the casino push, and $100,000 from Genting New York, the Malaysian-based company that wanted to bring an oceanfront resort and casino to the shores of Miami. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, a quiet but powerful opponent to the casino effort, also handed the party a $125,000 check on the day the legislative session started.

But the industry that gave the most cash were the insurance giants. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a perennial player in the big money politics of Tallahassee, dished out $280,650 to the RPOF and another $100,000 to the governor’s political committee. 

Aetna Inc. gave $150,000 to the party while United Group Underwriters, an auto insurer, gave the governor's committee $100,000. Gary Morse, developer of The Villlages mega-community in Central Florida, showed the governor his love with three checks totally $160,000. And the Florida Optometric CCE gave the governor $100,000 just in case the bill to give them prescription powers crossed his desk. It never scaled the legislative fence.

Miami-Dade health-care executive Miguel Fernandez gave $125,000. His HMO, Simply Healthcare Plans Inc., is hoping to get a piece of the Medicaid HMO rush. 

The Geo Group on April 4 sent the governor a $100,000 thank you gift for his late-to-the-cause embrace of their private prison push. The Boca Raton-based company also gave the Democratic Party a $10,000 check at the start of session.

 A new player on the Florida fundraising horizon is Koch Industries, the Wichita-based energy conglomereate, which gave the RPOF $40,000 and dozens of candidates another $10,500.