Utility companies, health insurers among those who helped Republicans raise nearly $5 million

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Florida corporations — many of them backing or opposing legislation during this year’s legislative session — donated large amounts of money to the Republican Party of Florida during the first three months of the year, reports Gary Fineout of the Florida Tribune.

Campaign reports filed on Monday show that large utility companies such as Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy, along with health insurance company Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and the political account run by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, were among some of the biggest donors.

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The party reported raising more than $4.96 million, which is nearly $1.1 million higher than the party raised during the first quarter of 2007 when Gov. Charlie Crist was in office.

Florida’s major electric utilities, which are seeking legislative authority to charge consumers for renewable energy, reported donating nearly $600,000. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida reported donating $250,000, while the Florida Jobs PAC gave $200,000. The Jobs PAC, which is really a committee of continuous existence, is run by the Chamber. The chamber has been a major advocate for many of the measures being pushed this session, including lawsuit limitations.

Private prison provider The Geo Group donated $60,000 to Republicans. Both the House and Senate budgets include provisions that would privatize some of Florida’s prisons. Realtors Florida PAC donated nearly $200,000.

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But in a surprising move the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees donated $50,000. AFSCME has been trying to push back against GOP legislative proposals that would ban the state from collecting union dues from paychecks and forcing state workers to pay part of their pension cost. Campaign records dating back more than 10 years indicate that this is the largest amount the union has given the Republican Party.

The Florida Democratic Party raised slightly more than $1.2 million during the same time period which coincided with former State Sen. Rod Smith taking over as chairman.

Some of the big donors to Democrats included Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which donated $100,000. Democrats also received donations from utility companies, phone companies and gambling interests. AFSCME, which has been a large donor to the party in the past, only donated $5,000 to the Democrats.

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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.