In Florida, where donations to individual candidates are subject to strict limits, the big money in politics tends to flow through the parties, campaign committees and other channels. This is one reason why our state leads the nation in spending by party committees, and also why the fundraising totals of state-level candidates seldom yield eye-popping sums.

The state Democratic Party brought in just over $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2011, much of that money coming from public employee unions and a group helping to sway the Jacksonville elections. The Republican Party of Florida raised nearly $3.5 million, with much of it coming from traditional big-time donors, like health care interests and utilities with matters before state government.

Florida Power & Light gave $30,000 to the state Republican Party this past quarter, but its parent company, NextEra Energy, gave $250,000 in June — the largest single contribution of the period, the highest total from a group other than Conservatives for a Better Jacksonville.

The next-largest contributors were U.S. Sugar Corporation, which gave $225,000 to the Republican Party, and insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which gave $224,625, divided among Republicans and Democrats.

Other health care interests poured money into Republican Party coffers: Hospital chain Tenet Healthcare gave $160,000, while Health Management Associates gave $100,000, as did Preferred Care Partners, which operates Medicare Advantage plans in South Florida. Political action committees tied to HCA gave $110,000, all of it during the final week of June and spread out among regional groups in installments of $12,500 or less at a time.

Tampa Electric Company, meanwhile, gave Republicans more than $146,000 and Democrats $20,000, and The Miami Herald notes that other major GOP contributions came from sources tied to Anderson Mining, a firm that could benefit from some regulations relaxed during this legislative session:

Mining interests associated with Anderson Mining, the phosphate and mining giant, gave the party a total of $190,000. Joe Anderson, retired exec of Anderson Mining Corp., gave $90,000 and his company’s Georgia affiliant, Junction City Mining, gave $100,000. The industry worked hard to exempt phosphate mines from the growth management laws called developments of regional impact.

You May Also Like

How gerrymandering leaves Sarasota’s African-American community stranded

State House District 55 and others like it — drawn without geographic logic, in order to group together the greatest number of minority votes — lie at the very center of the debate over the proposed state constitutional Amendments 5 and 6, which seek to establish basic rules for how the legislature must draw district lines when it enters the next round of reapportionment in 2012. The way District 55 is cut up is disheartening for a lot of people who live in the south part of that district, because they feel like they've never been properly represented, says one former District 55 candidate.

Legislator wants to change law that denies in-state tuition to students with undocumented parents

Under Florida statutes, a student who wishes to qualify for in-state tuition fees for higher education has to provide proof of residency, and if the student is a dependent also must provide proof of his or her parents' legal residency. State Rep. Reggie Fullwood D-Jacksonville, filed legislation to stop the practice of forcing legal residents from paying expensive out-of-state tuition at Florida’s colleges and universities.