Spending by political committees spikes in Florida, new study shows

A new report from a nationwide campaign watchdog shows spending by shadowy independent political organizations has spiked in Florida, with one Tampa address serving as home for many of these cash machines.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics found that political spending by electioneering communications organizations (ECOs), sometimes dubbed 527 committees, has climbed 53 percent from 2006 to 2010 in Florida.

During last year’s elections, $48.2 million was spent by groups, with the largest being Gov. Rick Scott’s own Let’s Get to Work ECO, which poured $17.5 million into helping him defeat Democrat Alex Sink.

In federal races, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in the Citizens United case helped kick the door open for corporate spending. Florida already allowed business interests to contribute in state races, so the ruling hasn’t directly affected elections for the Legislature, governor or Cabinet posts.

But Florida corporations are increasingly anteing up big bets in state races — behind the cover of vaguely named organizations, the institute report shows.

“Nearly 300 independent spending committees have been created since 2005, with innocuous names like ‘Let’s Get To Work,’ ‘Florida’s Working Families,’ and ‘Floridians for Truth and Integrity in Government,’ with little or no identifying information,” according to the report. “Yet many of these committees are registered to a small group of people. Of the $96.8 million of total independent spending during the study period, $38.8 million, 40 percent of the overall total, was routed through ECOs controlled by just four individuals.”

Nancy Watkins is one of those guiding the cash. The Tampa accountant’s office at 610 South Boulevard is the address for 88 different political committees.

The institute’s report is here: http://bit.ly/sjK3Gj

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on Friday, November 18th, 2011 at 1:05 pm and is filed under 2012 campaigns, Democrats, elections, legislature, Republicans, Rick Scott, U.S. Supreme Court.
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