For fundraising, Florida House leaders say baseball and wine good, hunting bad

king ranch

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida GOP leaders have not and will not be hunting for dollars at Texas’ King Ranch.

Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler report:

“… for the first time since 2011, records show, the state’s Republican elite have yet to make the trek west. U.S. Sugar — which has much at stake this year with lawmakers rewriting the state’s water policy — continues to contribute sizable amounts in cash, but the company has stopped paying for the secret trips to King Ranch.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported last year that records show that top Florida Republican officials have enjoyed repeated hunting trips to King Ranch thanks to the Sunshine State’s sugar industry and that the trips were financed all or in part by the Florida sugar industry. U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.

Lawmakers can’t accept free meals, drinks and trips from donors, but a loophole allows parties and political committees to do so. They can then pass on such gifts without detailing who gives or receives them — as long as the donation can be considered for a “campaign purpose.”

The Times says the lack of disclosure means officials and sugar lobbyists can avoid scrutiny about dealings on a host of important issues such as agriculture policy, water pollution and Everglades protection.

That will all come to an end, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran told Pittman and Van Sickler.

Not the part about closing the loophole that allows parties and political committees to accept in-kind gifts, just the hunting.

“Corcoran … said he plans to restrict future fundraisers to ‘traditional’ events, such as luncheons, dinners and weekend trips in-state, for instance visiting Universal Studios in Orlando or fishing in Boca Grande,” report P and VS. “He said he’ll make exceptions for only a few out-of-state events, such as the long-standing Yankee Stadium fundraiser in August and a Napa Valley wine country tour that has proven popular with both the House and Senate.”

In other words, hunting = bad; baseball and wine = good.

The Times‘ selective reporting about the fundraisers at King Ranch has always been my problem with its coverage. Why focus just on King Ranch and not, for example, the fundraiser benefiting Republican Senate candidates held at the storied Pebble Beach golf course?

Because some people just don’t like the people who enjoy hunting more than golf. Stories about hunting and lodging and taxidermy (!) make for better visuals.

As silly as it seems to favor one hobby over another when deciding where to host fundraisers, Chairman Corcoran deserves credit for the other reforms he says he will implement.

Corcoran pledged to organize fewer fundraisers, involve more members who are not part of the leadership, and make the events more open to the public, report P and VS.

That’s all good, as long as there aren’t any deer around.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was 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.


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