Law firm gives to Florida house speaker's reelection campaign

By Glenn Minnis | Aug 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran seems to have the Midas touch in the world of political fundraising.

Corcoran's Watchdog PAC raised more than $200,000 during the month of July. That windfall comes on the heels of the committee raising upwards of $2 million in June. 

State trial lawyers have been among Corcoran's biggest contributors, including a $100,000 donation from the Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley firm, a West Palm Beach personal injury practice that has a long and storied history of supporting democratic candidates and causes. 

Corcoran, who is up for reelection in 2018, has also been rumored as a potential candidate for governor, which some see as largely accounting for his all of a sudden raised levels of appeal. 

"He's attracting a lot of attention right now," Ben Wilcox, executive director of government watchdog organization Integrity Florida, told the Florida Record. "That would be the case no matter which one of the two offices he actually seeks to hold."

Wilcox said he finds it somewhat of a no-brainer why the Florida Justice Association that represents state trial lawyers would be at least superficially gravitating toward Corcoran. 

"He's an attorney, which mean you would expect him to return to those roots as a source of fundraising," Wilcox said. "And nowadays, financial contributions aren't necessarily reflective of one's politics. It has more to do with potentially gaining one's favor."

Boasting more than 25 years of legislative experience, Corcoran most recently rose to power as a "disrupter," guided by "principle, always principle."

Corcoran has pushed for ethics reforms he's touted as the "most transformative rules in the history of the Florida Legislature," making them a "national leader in transparency and accountability." Before creating Watchdog PAC, he also called for a rule that prohibits anyone in House leadership from campaigning for higher office while in office.

While Wilcox was among those who supported Corcoran and his ethics-pro agenda at the onset, he now admits inconsistencies, including Corcoran perhaps being ready to run for a higher office while already occupying another have given him reason for pause. 

"It's been a mixed bag," he said. "There have been a lot of people complaining about a lack of transparency and the fact that he's used the back-door method to get certain deals passed." 

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