Funds for the fight
The Florida gubernatorial race is 10 months away, but the contest has already drawn national attention.
Part of that is because, well, this is Florida — a politically diverse state with a history of quirky and unpredictable elections. Another part is the candidates: Gov. Rick Scott against former Gov. Charlie Crist. One, Scott, is a Republican who rode the national Tea Party wave into the governor's mansion in 2010. The other, Crist, has switched from Republican to Independent to Democrat.
A key theme on the Crist side is attorneys, lots of them. Both in Florida and outside the state, Crist has heavy support from the legal bar, especially trial lawyers. Philanthropic-minded retirees, especially from the Gulf Coast, also dot the Crist side of the ledger.
In honor of the other battle — the legislative session — that began Tuesday, the Business Observer analyzed donations to both candidates to see who's supporting them. Here's a glance at some notable donations, both from the business community and in general.
Candidates for state office in Florida can raise money several ways. One is through an official campaign account. Another is through a political committee. For each fund the money can come from an individual, an organization, a company or a political party. The Florida Department of State Division of Elections monitors all the funds.
Scott's main political committee is “Let's Get To Work,” while Crist's is “Charlie Crist for Florida.” The Business Observer analyzed donations to campaign accounts and political committees for both candidates from Sept. 30, 2013 through Feb. 21. Scott raised money for all of 2013, records show, but Crist didn't start to raise money in earnest until November, when he announced his candidacy.
A chunk of donations, to both types of accounts, come from state and national political parties and organizations. The donations to those groups can come from a variety of entities nationwide. So someone could have donated money to a party or committee that in turn donates to Scott or Crist, and the original donor's name wouldn't be on the list below.
25 Notable (ranked from biggest donation)
1. Floridians for Fairness, $345,000: A Tampa-based political committee that lists Frederick Jay Burmer, who did consulting work for the Republican Party of Florida when Crist was governor, as its treasurer and registered agent.
2. Grossman Roth, $250,000: Coral Gables-based personal injury firm has five Florida offices, including one in Sarasota.
3. Bruce Berkowitz, $200,000: Miami-based investor runs Fairholme Capital, a mutual fund and money management firm. Is also chairman of the St. Joe Co., based in Watersound, which gave Scott $25,000.
4. Rosalie Danbury, $150,000: Venice retiree's late husband, Thomas Danbury, founded Survey Sampling Inc., a data firm.
5. James Finch, $100,000: Panama City businessman owns a construction firm and owned a Nascar team from 1989 to 2013.
6. Steve Mostyn, $100,000: Houston-based attorney is president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.
7. Susan McCurry, $100,000: Naples retiree and philanthropist ran her family's seed and agricultural businesses, which was bought by Monsanto. McCurry and her husband, David, are trustees of the Naples Children & Education Foundation.
8. The Ferraro Law Firm, $100,000: Firm, with offices in Miami and Washington, D.C., specializes in mesothelioma and asbestos; environmental toxic torts; defective drugs; personal injury; and product liability cases.
9. R.K.M Development Corp., $50,000: Firm lists St. Petersburg address and Richard Maloof as its top executive.
10. Frank Brunckhorst, $50,000: Sarasota resident's family founded Sarasota-based deli meat company Boar's Head Provision Co., which had $1.2 billion in sales last year. Brunckhorst has donated more than $400,000 to Democrats and related causes over the last decade.
11. David Rancourt, $50,000: Top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and was his first chief of staff. Co-founded Southern Strategy Group, a prominent Tallahassee-based lobbyist firm.
12. Eva Gomez, $48,000: Naples philanthropist has supported Crist in multiple donations.
13. American Medical Technologies Inc., $40,000: The firm, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corp., is based in Tampa and the top officer is Charles Brink. The Brink family has donated more than $200,000 to Democrats over the last five years. Brink, who donated $3,000 to Crist personally, co-founded the MonaVie beverage company.
14. David Boies, $25,000: High-profile New York attorney represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore after the 2000 presidential election. Alec Schultz, an attorney in the Fort Lauderdale office of Boies' firm, Boies, Schiller and Flexner, also gave $25,000.
15. Luhrsen Law Group, $25,000: Sarasota-based firm of trial attorneys focuses on auto accidents.
16. Fran Haasch, $24,000: Palm Harbor attorney with the Fran Haasch Law Group, which specializes in auto accidents.
17. Gus Stavros, $13,000: Longtime Pinellas County businessman and philanthropist. Founded Better Business Forms in 1960. Founded the Pinellas Education Foundation and the Gus A. Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University.
18. C.C. Dockery, $11,000: Lakeland resident started and ran several businesses, in real estate development and workers' compensation insurance. Has financially supported Republicans in previous election cycles, and is married to former State Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican.
19. Mike Papantonio, $10,000: A Pensacola-based trial lawyer, Papantonio hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, “Ring of Fire,” with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Papantonio is also president of the National Trial Lawyers Association.
20. Gerri Aaron, $10,000: Sarasota resident's late husband, Daniel, co-founded cable giant Comcast Corp.
21. Jerry Springer, $10,000: Part-time Sarasota resident and TV show host. A longtime Democrat, he served five terms on the Cincinnati city council in the 1970s and was elected mayor of the city twice.
22. Yerrid Law Firm, $10,000: Tampa-based firm specializes in personal injury, product liability and medical malpractice cases. Founder C. Steven Yerrid was one of 11 trial lawyers selected to represent Florida in the tobacco lawsuits against the cigarette industry.
23. Robert Sanderson, $4,000: Entrepreneur owns BellaBrava, a popular eatery on downtown St. Petersburg's Beach Drive.
24. Tim Main, $2,000: Chairman and former CEO of St. Petersburg-based electric circuit board-firm Jabil Circuit, the second-largest company on the Gulf Coast, with $17.2 billion in annual sales. Main donated money through Main Real Estate Holdings LLC, and hosted a $500-a-plate reception Dec. 22 at his St. Petersburg home for Crist.
25. Dr. Gary Kompothecras, $1,952: Prominent Sarasota businessman and chiropractor is a longtime Crist supporter. Founder of 1-800-ASK-GARY, a medical and attorney referral service.
Other notable donations:
25 Notable (ranked from biggest donation)
1. Mike Fernandez, $1 million: Cuban immigrant founded MBF Healthcare Partners in Coral Gables, a private equity fund. Business partners include Magic Johnson.
2. Lawrence DeGeorge, $1 million: Retired telecom executive who lives in Jupiter.
3. Progress Energy, $500,000: Duke Energy subsidiary provides electricity and power to customers in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.-based firm gave two $250,000 donations.
4. Florida Crystal Corp., $500,000: West Palm Beach-based firm is one of the largest sugar companies in Florida.
5. Florida Power & Light $250,000: Juno Beach-based power utility serves about 4.4 million customers in Florida.
6. Shahid Khan, $250,000: Pakistan-born entrepreneur owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. Lists a Naples address on his disclosure form.
7. 21st Century Oncology $150,000: Fort Myers-based firm operates radiation therapy and integrated cancer treatment centers. Recently filed for an initial public offering.
8. Dex Imaging, $100,000: Office equipment firm is one of the largest in the Tampa area, with more than $150 million in annual sales.
9. Brian Disernia, $100,000: Panama City Beach shipbuilder and one of the largest employers in Bay County.
10. Alico, $55,000: Fort Myers-based agribusiness and land management firm.
11. Bright House Networks, $50,000: Maitland-based firm is the second-largest cable systems owner and operator in Florida.
12. Frank McCourt, $50,000: Former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, runs a real estate firm with offices in L.A. and New York City.
13. Kim Pegula, $50,000: Boca Raton resident is wife of Buffalo Sabers owner Terry Pegula, who made his fortune in real estate and oil fracking.
14. William Bindley, $40,000: Former owner of the NBA's Indiana Pacers. Chairman of Bindley Capital Partners, an Indianapolis-based investment firm, Bindley has served on multiple boards, including Shoe Carnival and Key Bank.
15. St. Joe Co., $25,000: One of the largest landowners in Florida. Chairman Bruce Berkowitz has donated $200,000 to the Crist campaign.
16. Jack Nicklaus, $16,090: All-time great golfer has opened his North Palm Beach home for Scott fundraisers.
17. James Ferman Jr., $10,000: President of Ferman Motors in Tampa, which has more than a dozen dealerships. Also chairman of the Bank of Tampa.
18. Alan Levine, $10,000: Former Naples-based president of HMA Florida.
19. Bob Long, $10,000: Former Wells-Craft Marine executive runs Cape Coral-based Marine Concepts.
20. Sherrill Hudson, $10,000: Teco Energy Chairman. A longtime executive with Deloitte & Touche before he joined Teco, Sherrill is on the board of directors at Publix. He was CEO at Teco from 2004 to 2010.
21. Garrett Richter $5,000: A Republican state representative, Richter is the founder and CEO of Naples-based First National Bank of Florida.
22. Reinhold Schmieding, $5,000: Naples resident founded Arthrex, a Naples-based medical device firm. (The disclosure line from the “Let's Get To Work” contributions list spelled the name Schnieding.)
23. Wawa, $2,000: Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain expanding in Florida.
24. Yankee Global Enterprise, $1,000: A corporate entity of the New York Yankees baseball team, which holds spring training in Tampa.
25. Norman Braman, $50: Miami Beach art dealer and auto dealer is No. 296 on Forbes magazine's 400 richest people in the world list. Owned the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles from 1985 to 1984.
Other notable donations: