Greenlight Pinellas raises more in one week than entire No Tax for Tracks campaign

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In just one week, the Greenlight Pinellas Campaign has raised more than its competition has throughout the entire campaign, bringing its total cash raised to more than $1 million.

Greenlight Pinellas, the campaign for a ballot initiative that would increase sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent to fund sweeping improvements to public transportation, brought in just under $100,000 between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10. No Tax for Tracks, the group fighting to derail the referendum, raised just $595.

A good chunk of Greenlight’s latest contributions came from Sykes Enterprises. That company kicked in $50,000. That’s the second such contribution made by the investment company, whose founder is John Sykes. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “He has said that light rail is helping the city’s economy in Charlotte, N.C., where he worked before moving to Florida, and would do the same here.”

Greenlight also got major contributions from the Jacobs Good Government Fund and Cardinal Point Management, a real estate company, for $25,000 and $10,000 respectively. In past fundraising periods, Greenlight Pinellas has received $25,000 contributions from each of Tampa Bay’s three major professional sports teams – The Rays, The Bucs and The Lightning.

They also brought in small campaign contributions from several elected officials and transit leaders. PSTA CEO Brad Miller wrote a check for $100 on Oct. 10. That adds to the $1,130 he’s already contributed to the campaign. PSTA communications director Bob Lasher donated $20 on top of two previous $100 contributions and St. Pete City Council member and PSTA board member Darden Rick contributed $50 for a total of $150 in contributions to date.

Owen LaFave contributed $100. He’s the banker whose ex-wife, Deborah LaFave, was arrested and convicted of having sex with a high school student.

While Greenlight Pinellas has enjoyed duplicate contributions from pockets both deep and shallow, its campaign cash has come from a diverse pool of transit supporters. No Tax for Tracks has earned nearly 75 percent of its contributions from two wealthy donors. Jeweler Richard Canary has contributed more than $40,000 to the campaign while activist Elizabeth Burgess has donated more than $22,000. The group’s total contributions are just under $85,000.

Both sides kept spending to a minimum during the latest reporting period. Greenlight spent about $1,400 mostly on printing and NTFT spent $5,700, most of it on reimbursements.

The Greenlight Pinellas campaign could be in trouble as news surfaces about Miller’s involvement in mismanaging a Homeland Security Grant. The agency returned $350,000 after it was discovered PSTA used the money to promote Greenlight instead of security on buses. Emails uncovered by 10 News’ Mike Deeson prove Miller intended to use the funds that way. With early voting beginning today, the Greenlight Pinellas campaign will have to step into overdrive to mitigate the incriminating emails.

According to the Supervisor of Election’s website, as of 11:20 a.m. more than 300 people had cast an early ballot. More than 92,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been turned in. Pinellas County has just under 625,000 registered voters. Election Day is Nov. 4. The fundraising deadline is the end of October.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email