Campaign Finance
6:21 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Seminole Tribe, U.S. Sugar Among Big Donors To Gov. Scott Re-Election Committee

It's been a big month so far for the political committee amassing a war chest for Gov. Rick Scott's re-election bid.

Governor Rick Scott
Governor Rick Scott
Credit Flickr

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, approaching an end to a key part of its exclusive gambling compact with the state, dropped $500,000 into the Tallahassee-based "Let's Get to Work" committee earlier this month, while United States Sugar Corporation added another $100,000 this week.

The money is just some of the $2.31 million that has poured into the political committee since the start of the month. For the year, the committee has picked up $11.9 million.

The contributions come as Scott's 2010 opponent, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced last week she will not challenge Scott again in 2014, further fueling speculation about Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist entering the race.

Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, called the large contributions to the committee backing Scott, "big money from all the wrong kinds of folks."

A spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida, noting the political committee wasn't affiliated with the party, deferred comment to John French, the chairman of the committee.

French, a Tallahassee lawyer, was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The $100,000 contribution from U.S. Sugar, the third this year in that amount from the company, was recorded on the committee website Wednesday.

The contribution comes as the state has a couple of weeks remaining in its exclusive 3-year option to purchase part or all of a 153,000-acre portion of the company's land south of Lake Okeechobee at a fixed price of $7,400 an acre.

While groups such as the Sierra Club and the Florida Wildlife Federation have urged Scott to complete the deal as a means to help clean water in the Everglades and provide relief for coastal estuaries, the state has not indicated that any purchase will the made.

As for money tied to gaming, the tribe --- which could see its agreement to run table games like blackjack expire in 2015 --- wasn't the only casino-related interest to chip in to the committee this month.

Missouri-based Isle of Capri Casinos, which owns Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park in Broward County, and Calder Race Course in Miami-Dade County both gave $20,000 to the "Let's Get to Work" committee this month.

The future of gambling in Florida once is again expected to be a major issue before the state Legislature in 2014. Competing gaming interests have been ramping up their lobbying efforts in anticipation of the pending findings from a study by Spectrum Gaming Group on the potential future of gambling in Florida.

Other notable contributions from among the 247 recorded so far this month include:

--- The Hertz Corporation, which in May was offered the chance to land up to $84 million in incentives over 20 years by relocating its headquarters from Park Ridge, N.J. to Estero in Lee County, gave $25,000.

--- The Florida Chamber of Commerce, $100,000.

--- Dosal Tobacco Corp., $100,000.

--- HCA West Florida, $70,000, HCA East Florida, $30,000, and Florida Hospital Healthcare System, $25,000.