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    Teachers union key to McBride ad

    The union was the top donor to a fund backing a TV ad that helped the Democrat.

    By WES ALLISON, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 28, 2002

    The state teachers union was by far the largest donor to a special fund established to air a key television advertisement that helped Bill McBride secure the Democratic nomination for governor.

    The Florida Education Association contributed $1.5-million of the almost $1.9-million the group raised, according to records released Friday by the Quality Public Education Corp. The money came from the members' dues, an FEA spokesman said.

    The second-largest amount, $150,000, was from Robert Kerrigan, a Pensacola trial lawyer who has been an ardent critic of Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Wayne Hogan, a Jacksonvile lawyer who has long supported Democratic causes, was third, with $100,000.

    Another $51,750 came from local teachers unions, including $10,000 from the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

    QPEC, established by officers of the FEA to fund the McBride ad, released the secret list of donors "to end the politically motivated attacks on the fine citizens who have contributed to the Florida Education QPEC," the group's president, Andy Ford, said in a statement.

    Pressure had been mounting recently to make the list public. The FEA noted that a list of donors was due to the IRS by Oct. 15. The group can continue accepting donations.

    McBride faces Bush in the Nov. 5 election. QPEC paid to produce and air a flattering advertisement showcasing McBride's life story. It first ran in mid July, and it is credited with boosting the little-known McBride's name recognition so he could defeat Janet Reno in the Democratic primary.

    Republicans contend that the ad amounted to an illegal campaign contribution because it expressly advocated for McBride.

    The FEA and the McBride campaign say it did not, and the Florida Elections Commission is investigating. McBride and the FEA have gone to court to stop the investigation, which they say is politically motivated by Republican members of the commission.

    The last major donation QPEC reported was $50,000 from Viatical Benefactors LLC, a Fort Lauderdale insurance company that also gave $25,000 to the Florida Democratic Party this year, records show.

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