Florida political parties take in millions from corporations, groups amid legislative session

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature is the middle of another contentious session where it's deciding everything from the future of gambling in the state to whether or not grocery stores can sell liquor in their aisles.

And the corporations, trade association, and law firms with a stake in the outcome of this year's session have flooded the campaign accounts of the two major parties, as well as accounts connected to Senate President Andy Gardiner and Gov. Rick Scott.

New campaign reports filed late Friday show that more than $7 million was donated to the Republican Party of Florida and the account controlled by Gardiner.

In January, Republican activists rejected Scott's hand-picked party leader and instead elected state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia to lead the state GOP. The Senate went out on its own and set up a separate fundraising account after the change.

Scott himself has also reinvigorated his own fundraising account called Let's Get to Work which has pulled in $1.1 million since Ingoglia took over.

The Florida Democratic Party, which has been dealing with a string of setbacks in recent elections, received roughly $2.75 million in cash donations during the first quarter of 2015. Most of that came from a Jacksonville political committee which itself has received money from key figures in that city including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

Current Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown is locked in a tight re-election battle against former Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry.

Some of the key donors so far this year include The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which wants to extend its agreement with the state that lets it offer blackjack and other card games at its casinos. It sent $175,000 to Republican-connected accounts, while donating $105,000 to the Democrats.

Disney, which has been adamantly opposed to allowing the creation of new casinos in the state, donated nearly $300,000 to Republicans and $40,000 to Democrats.

U.S. Sugar, which has come out against a proposed deal to acquire land owned by the company south of Lake Okeechobee, has donated $185,000 to Republicans and $45,000 to the Democratic Party.

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