Super PAC “sleeping lions”: are they starting to wake for 2016?

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The “sleeping lions” of the 2016 presidential race — major Super PAC donors — may be starting to rise, says Kent Cooper of Roll Call’s Political Moneyline blog.

One SSuper PAC supporter that was a key player in the 2012 presidential cycle, but stayed silent for most of 2013 is H. Gary Morse, whose family owns the retirement community The Villages  owner, a billion-dollar retirement community business northwest of the Orlando-area.

Morse and his family controls The Villages Family Company and a myriad of related limited liability corporations (LLCs).

During the 2011-21012 election seasons, Morse and his wife Renee, through a dozen LLCs, gave about $1,445,000 to a rouges gallery of conservative super PACs: Restore Our Future, American Crossroads, Freedom PAC, and America on the Move.

Individuals can give unlimited amounts to Super PACs, which make independent expenditures.

Cooper speculates that Morse chose to use several LLCs because they may have been “where the money was.” Some state laws allow donors to use LLCs to evade disclosure and restrictions on dollar limits.

The U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the door wider to corporate contributions on the federal level.

Morse, co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Florida campaign in 2012, gave the Romney primary Super PAC Restore Our Future $50,000. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan both visited The Villages during the campaign. Renee Morse also donated $350,000 to Restore Our Future.

According to Cooper, the various LLCs (many linked directly to Morse) that gave to Restore Our Future include:

  • The Villages of Lake Sumter $250K
  • GTMJ Investment Group LLC $100K
  • Lazy B Cattle Venture LLC $100K
  • North Sumter Utility Co LLC $100K
  • Sumter Sanitation LLC $100k
  • Central Sumter Utility LLC $50K
  • 44A Partners LLC $50k
  • Sumter Water Conservation Authority LLC $50K
  • SCD Investment $50K
  • The Diversified Commercial Properties Services LLC $50K
  • Mid-Florida Property LLC $50K
  • Central Sumter Utility Co. LLC $25K
  • The Shopping Center Development LLC $50K

American Crossroads Super PAC:

  • Sumter Sanitation LLC $75K
  • MMMP LLC gave $50K
  • The Diversified Commercial Properties Services $40K
  • GTMJ Investment Group LLC $25K
  • North Sumter Utility Co. LLC $25K
  • Sumter Water Conservation Authority $25K
  • SCD Investment $25K
  • Little Sumter Utility Co LLC $10K

The Villages also gave $50K to conservative Freedom PAC and the Holding Company of the Villages gave America on the Move $10K.

Although Gary Morse and his array of LLCs have not been reported donors to Super PACs or Section 527 organizations in 2013, there is the chance they gave to 501c4 non-profit ‘social welfare’ organizations, which are not required to disclose donor names.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.