Internet cafe industry donated more than $100K over last 4 years to local officials campaigns

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Strip-mall parlors with slot-like computer games such as those targeted in a state racketeering and conspiracy investigation have contributed about $100,000 over the past four years to local candidates in Florida, including a sheriff whose agency was a part of the probe, according to a review of records by The Associated Press‘ Mike Schneider.

Nearly 90 local officials and candidates in 20 Florida counties received political contributions from the parlors – sometimes called “Internet cafes” – their owners and their political committees, according to the AP review of county-by-county campaign records.

… The bulk of the contributions were in Duval County, home to Jacksonville, where officials received about $50,000 from the local parlors and their owners. The Jacksonville City Council in 2010 considered shutting down the centers. But city council members instead overwhelmingly passed compromise legislation that capped the number of existing cafes and required them to pay fees and be better regulated.

… Among the largest recipients in Duval County was city councilman Richard Clark who received $3,750 from the Allied Veteran affiliates and another $1,000 from Floridians for Internet Access … 

… Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford received $9,000. At the time, Rutherford’s agency was investigating Allied Veterans, along with other law enforcement. Rutherford said he knew some of his 2010 campaign donors were under investigation, but he decided to accept the money so the probe wouldn’t be exposed.

Donations from the cafes were made in Brevard, Broward, Clay Collier, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia counties, according to the AP review. Donations to Florida candidates are limited to $500 per person per election.

More from the AP’s Mike Schneider here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.