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For Richard Corcoran, summer is the season for calling in the fundraising chits -- from trial lawyers

Richard Corcoran smiling@MaryEllenKlas

With a second month of fast-paced fundraising, House Speaker Richard Corcoran's newly-formed political committee, Watchdog-PAC, amassed $820,900 in the month of July, fueled in part by large checks from Florida trial lawyers.  

Corcoran, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination for governor, posted July numbers that exceed those of his two likely primary rivals, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala.

Putnam, whose Florida Grown PC has raised $13.6 million with $10 million on hand, raised $211,000 in July through July 25.

Latvala, the Clearwater senator who will announce his candidacy Aug. 16, has raised $8.6 million for his Florida Leadership Committee, has $3 million on hand and collected another $236,000 in July. 

Corcoran's biggest checks came from trial lawyers, who have watched as their star return to an orbit of influence in Tallahassee under the Land O'Lakes Republican.

Last session, the trial bar succeeded at stalling or defeating efforts to rewrite the attorneys fees provision of the workers compensation law that had been ruled unconstitutional, changes to the insurance assignment-of-benefits system and a repeal of Personal Injury Protection for auto insurance. Also, the ice melted on claims bills to compensate people injured in accidents or negligence of state or local government employees -- and pay their lawyers -- as lawmakers sent several claims bills to the governor for his signature. 

Corcoran supporters say those defeats should be blamed on the Florida Senate, not the House, which passed a workers comp bill, and assignment of benefits reform that were rejected by the Senate. They also note that Corcoran isn't the only Republican House speaker who has allowed claims bills to advance. 

Two West Palm Beach law firms each gave Corcoran $100,000 in July: Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, and Shipley and Lytal, Reiter, Smith. And another $25,000 check came from Orlando trial lawyer Rich Newsome, who Corcoran appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission.

In the dark money category, $100,000 came from the Citizens Alliance for Florida's Economy, a political committee run by Corcoran consultant Anthony Pedicini that has received large contributions from lawyers. Corcoran received another $25,000 from a political committee run by Michael Millner, Leadership for Florida's Future. Millner is the treasurer of Pedicini's political committee and in June his committee received $100,000 from Pedicini's committee and $97,000 from Associated Industries-affiliated political committees. 

This is the second month Corcoran has pulled in the lawyer cash. Last month, Corcoran held a big fundraiser in Orlando, hosted by Democrat and big-name trial lawyer John Morgan. He raised $76,000 from lawyers and law firms. 

Corcoran's other big donors in July: $25,000 from U.S. Sugar, $25,000 from Associated Industries of Florida's political committee, Voice of Florida Business.  

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