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Legislators rake in campaign cash before start of session

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It seems lawmakers hit the annual “drink, drop and dash” scene exceptionally hard this year.

In the run-up to the legislative session in Tallahassee, when legislators are prohibited from raising campaign funds, statehouse pols pulled in more than $1 million in 11th-hour contributions, much of that coming from lobbyists and business interests who do business with the state and seek to do more.

According to recently released donation figures from the Florida Division of Elections, incumbent lawmakers were by far the primary recipients of the last-minute flurry of campaign cash.

A disproportionately high amount went to Senate candidates — including those not on the ballot until 2018 — who raked it in to the tune of $600,000. House candidates pulled in a healthy $710,000 in the period between March 1 and March 3 when session began, but that amount was divided many more ways in the 120-member House delegation.

Always an exception to the rule, House budget chief and rising Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $53,000 on March 2, an amount that stacks up to some of the heaviest line items in the Senate fundraising blitz.

Only state Sen. Denise Grimsley managed to outdo that figure, with a total of $69,950 in the days and hours leading up to the annual lawmaking period.

Legislators got a boost from many of the usual suspects of the Adams Street corps, as Disney-related ventures, the Florida Justice Association, the Florida Medical Associaton and U.S. Sugar rained down a deluge of contributions on state lawmakers.

These figures account only for “hard money” that goes directly into candidates’ campaign coffers for general use. Contributions for political committees — such as a substantial investment FJA made in Corcoran’s PAC along with trial attorney Fred Levin –– were not included.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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