The Florida House Speaker who bashes special interests spends their money lavishly – and won’t apologize

A self-proclaimed foe of special interests, Richard Corcoran says using their donations on private jets, posh hotels, expensive restaurants and fancy cigars is how he gets Republicans elected.

Adam C. Smith and Eli Zhang, Tampa Bay Times:

Even before Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran came to dominate Tallahassee, he declared himself an archenemy of special interests.

“I will proudly declare war on all the special interests … all the Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interests, powers-that-be,” Corcoran told House members, as he thundered against a plan to expand Medicaid coverage to more Floridians. “Come to war with us. I’ll fight. And if it costs me my political career or yours, so be it.”

That was early in 2015, shortly after the career Tallahassee operative effectively took control of the Republican Party of Florida’s finances. Since then, a big part of the cigar-loving House speaker’s war against special interests has involved taking and then spending their money to fly on private planes, dine at pricey restaurants and buy thousands of dollars worth of cigars.

He makes no apologies, saying it’s all part of the fundraising process that ensures true, blue conservative Republicans control the Florida House of Representatives.

“If you waste money in politics, chances are you don’t win campaigns, especially the tough ones,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said, brushing off questions about political spending that sometimes seem more in line with the Kardashians than with a champion of fiscal conservatism.

  • Napa Valley junkets that included wine tours and an $8,000 dinner tab at California’s sumptuous French Laundry restaurant
  • More than $400,000 to charter private planes
  • More than $9,500 in one day for the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan
  • More than $1,000 for cufflinks and $19,000 for unidentified gift cards
  • More than $11,000 at Morton’s steakhouses, $15,000 at Ruth’s Chris, and $29,000 at Tampa’s Capital Grille restaurant, a favorite haunt for Corcoran.

These state GOP expenditures, revealed on campaign finance reports, are all part of electing Republicans to the Florida House, Corcoran said. The bottom line results speak for themselves.

“We successfully defended every single House GOP incumbent and even flipped a Democrat seat to the GOP,” Corcoran, 52, said of the 2016 Florida House campaign operations he oversaw before formally taking the reins of the House. “By continuing our party’s winning streak, we have been able to continue moving Florida forward in creating jobs, lowering taxes, improving education, reducing regulations and cracking down on illegal immigration.”

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