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    A Times Editorial

    A dubious excuse

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000

    Associated Industries, the business lobby sometimes known as Florida's shadow government, complained the other day that it has no time or money to effectively fight a Nov. 7 ballot initiative that would require the state to build a high-speed rail network of unknown cost and doubtful feasibility.

    Time is short; the Supreme Court shocked almost everyone when it decided Oct. 3 to leave the measure on the ballot. But for one of Florida's wealthiest lobbies to plead poverty is almost as surprising. Where did its money go?

    According to the Secretary of State's data base, Associated Industries, its PAC and subsidiaries have made at least $655,000 in political contributions to current Florida campaigns. That includes $160,061 in soft money to the Democratic Party and $280,383 to the Florida Republican Party. Those figures don't include whatever Associated Industries is spending on "independent" campaign advertising through a for-profit affiliate that isn't required to report where the money comes from or where it goes. The purpose, as always, is to control the Legislature.

    Perhaps the parties will spend some of that soft money to educate the public why C.C. Dockery's choo-choo doesn't belong in the Constitution. Or is control of the Legislature all that they care about, too?

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