Florida Republicans are steering clear of the historic King Ranch in Texas. U.S. Sugar's invitations to hunt there are being avoided like a political plague. The giant company doles out copious amounts of cash to win the hearts and minds of lawmakers, and the company's lure of free outings and checks collected quite a few politicos, including Gov. Rick Scott.
But some serious exposure of the sordid practice of a hunting junket -- undisclosed in any financial reports filed by the Republican Party of Florida -- raised quite a stink last summer. The Herald/Times unmasked the political elite who accepted the clandestine trips, offered since 2011. Most did not want to talk. Imagine that. Transparency takes a back seat to campaign moola.
How powerful is U.S. Sugar? The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau totaled the campaign cash that the company and its subsidiaries and representatives doled out in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles: $8.1 million. This week's bureau report noted 10 percent of that went to elected officials who visited the King Ranch, or some $820,000. Scott raked in the most, almost $550,000.
Now, though, nobody wants to get near that stench again. Last summer's series of bureau stories quickly drained any enthusiasm by politicians for ranch hunting, apparently within two weeks of the published exposure of this influence peddling far from prying public eyes.
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The next House speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, guilty of visiting the King Ranch, now says, "I want fundraising to be open and transparent." That's a refreshing statement, but only if it comes to pass. We have our doubts, to put it mildly. There's no current rush to transparency.