In contrast to Allied’s contribution strategy, Arcola Systems and its affiliates used a political committee controlled by their lobbyist David Ramba, as well as a series of other political committees run by Ramba to steer money to legislators. Among the top recipients, according to the Herald/Times analysis: $50,000 to the House Majority, led by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; $30,000 to the Senate Majority, led by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville; $25,000 to Latvala; $25,000 to the political committee controlled by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity; $20,000 to the Republican Party of Florida; $12,500 to the Florida Democratic Party; and $116,000 to the Citizens for Housing and Urban Growth, another political committee controlled by Ramba.
In the wake of the federal and state investigation, lawmakers are trying to take a very public distance from the money. On Wednesday, Gaetz sent out a statement saying he wants a “top to bottom review of my own campaign contributions as well as funds raised by the Republican Senate Majority for the Republican Party of Florida during the 2012 cycle for which I had leadership responsibility.”
He noted that he “declined to meet with Allied Veterans and refused campaign contributions from the organization” and that he has “a practice of not accepting contributions to my own campaigns from gaming entities, and I did not knowingly accept campaign contributions from any Internet cafes for my own campaign or on behalf of the Republican Senate Majority.”
Negron said that he is also reviewing his campaign donations.
Even lobbyists are peeling away. Nine registered to work on behalf of Allied and Burns’ Oklahoma company withdrew from representing them in Tallahassee. Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the lobbyists, said Allied and Burns “had misrepresented themselves to us.”
Almost as fast as the political fallout, however, is the speed with which legislators are lining up to clarify the law that allows Internet cafes to operate under a loophole in the state’s sweepstakes law.
The House has called a meeting of the Select Committee on Gaming for Friday to take up Trujillo’s bill. It will not only ban the illegal slot machine games operated at Internet cafes, but it will also ban their pornographic games and ban the maquinitas operating in South Florida.
“It’s absolutely justified,’’ Trujillo said. “Currently under Florida law these gaming establishments are illegal. They are operating under a gray area. They’re completely unregulated. Nobody even checks if their odds are valid. They do not pay taxes. They contribute absolutely nothing to our cities, our counties or our state.”
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@ MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas