The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.
As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.
“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.
That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.
Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.
Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee “Florida Roundtable,” which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.
That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.
And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?
He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.
He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.
During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.
Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.