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Pre-session ritual: One last blast of collecting money

On the eve of the 2013 Florida legislative session, the Capitol was bustling with activity, including the pre-session ritual of lobbyists scurrying from one fund-raiser to the next with campaign checks for the lawmakers. On Tuesday, they will convene and begin to talk about the need for more stringent ethics laws in Tallahassee.

Fund-raising is prohibited during the 60-day session that starts Tuesday and will end in early May. So Tallahassee politicians collect what they can before the ban takes effect.

"I'm going to six (fund-raisers) now, but there are a bunch more at 4:30 and 5," said lobbyist Ron Book, who opened his legislative briefing binder to reveal a stack of checks in envelopes. He said there were a lot more fund-raisers during a stretch of three weeks of committee meetings held in February.

On the third floor of the nearby Governor's Club, Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, greeted a small but steady stream of lobbyists bearing gifts for a lawmaker who plays a central role in setting the legislative agenda. Thrasher readily agreed to allow a Times/Herald reporter and photographer to attend his midday fund-raiser, and most lobbyists quickly scattered at the sight of a news camera.

"I'm going to run again," Thrasher said. "It's just a way of reaching out and telling people you're out there." Among the lobbyists stopping by to shake Thrasher's hand and say hello to his wife, Jean, were Book, Brian Ballard and Reginald Garcia.  

-- Steve Bousquet

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