August 22, 2019

Walt Disney World's political spending

Jason Garcia | 7/26/2019

MICKEY’S FAVORITE LAWMAKERS

Here are some of the Florida lawmakers who have received the most money from Disney. The totals include donations to their individual campaign accounts and their political committees (which can accept unlimited donations), as well as free hotel rooms, theme park tickets, food and other items given as “in-kind” donations.

Sen. Wilton Simpson
$218,000, plus $977.38 worth of freebies

  • Nobody in the Legislature has benefited more from Disney’s largesse than Simpson, a Republican from Pasco County who is in line to become Senate president after the 2020 elections. In fact, just about the entire business lobby is excited about Simpson, who is seen as one of the most reliably business-friendly legislators in the state — which makes him something of a rarity in the Florida Senate, where Senate presidents have historically been less accommodating to companies than House Speakers.

Sen. Bill Galvano
$120,000, plus $6,081 worth of freebies

  • As the current Senate president, Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, has power over the entire legislative process. He and Disney haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on gambling, but Galvano was an important ally for Disney this past session in saving Visit Florida, the state’s publicly subsidized tourism advertising agency.

Rep. Chris Sprowls
$40,0000

  • Disney has had to battle both House Speaker Jose Oliva and his predecessor Richard Corcoran, both of whom attempted to wipe out Visit Florida. The company hopes for better relations with Sprowls, a Tampa-area Republican who will become Speaker after the 2020 elections.

Sen. Kelli Stargel
$21,000, plus $15,190.89 worth of freebies

  • Stargel, a Republican from Lakeland, is one of Disney’s go-to legislators. This session alone, she helped the company get a sales-tax break on leftover merchandise that it donates to charity and looser rules on how it must dispose of items that people leave behind on its property.

Sen. Oscar Braynon
$25,000

  • One of the Democrats Disney likes most is Braynon, a senator from Miami who served as minority leader from 2016-18 and remains an important voice in the Democratic caucus.

Former Sen. Dana Young
$64,000

  • Disney spent heavily to help Young, a Tampa Republican who narrowly lost re-election in the most expensive and intensely fought legislative race in the state last year. In fact, big chunks of Disney’s donations to Simpson’s and Galvano’s political committees, as well the company’s even larger contributions to the Republican Party of Florida, were likely spent on Young’s re-election campaign. Even though she lost, Young landed on her feet — Gov. Ron DeSantis named her CEO of Visit Florida.

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