PALM BAY, Florida -- Contributors connected to internet cafes are good at gambling with their campaign donations when it comes to picking winners in Brevard County elections. All but one of the candidates who received donations from persons or corporations connected to internet cafes ultimately won their respective political races.*
By making $500 contributions through multiple companies and individuals, interests connected to Allied Veterans of the World were able to skirt the $500 maximum donation permitted by Florida Election Laws. Some of the donating corporations even appear to brazenly flaunt that they were connected to a vice operation by peculiarly favoring to incorporate the term in their names such as Infovice, Media Advice, and Game Advice.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, who ran the most expensive campaign in the county last year, received the most internet cafe campaign contributions totaling $5,500 which accounted for 1.7% of his $328,000 total campaign contributions.
“During the course of the campaign I received the support of several companies affiliated with the Allied Veterans Internet Cafes," Sheriff Ivey said in a statement. "At the time I received the support, I had absolutely no knowledge of any potential illegal activity on the part of these businesses, as they were all licensed and to my knowledge operating within the law. Under my direction our agency aggressively participated in both the investigation and subsequent arrests and continues to support the statewide initiative.”
Newly-elected State Attorney Phil Archer received donations of $500 each from Presitge Gaming and International Internet Technologies in the first half of 2012, but his campaign refunded both donations on July 23, 2012 - long before the arrests were made. Archer was the only Brevard County politician who refunded donations associated with internet cafes. Archer will appear on the Bill Mick Live Show on Thursday at 7 a.m. to discuss the topic of this article.
UPDATE: Replay of Phil Archer on Bill Mick Live Show.
Brevard County Commissioners
Besides picking winners in Brevard, internet cafe / arcade campaign contributions were mostly concentrated in two south Brevard County Commission Districts where the cafes proliferated in and around Palm Bay and Melbourne in recent years.
Based mostly on the federal search warrant affidavit for "Operation Reveal the Deal" which listed companies and individuals associated with Allied Veterans of the World, a Brevard Times analysis of campaign finance documents found that Brevard County District 5 Commissioner Chairman Andy Anderson received the most contributions of all Commissioners with $4,500 (over 12% of his total donations), followed closely by Brevard County District 4 Commissioner Vice-Chair Mary Bolin with $4,000 (over 4.9% of her total donations) for the 2010 election.
According to the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections database, Brevard County Commissioner Chuck Nelson was the only Commissioner who did not receive any internet cafe contributions.
Many Florida state lawmakers tried to make good in the public eye by donating the amounts they received from internet cafes to charities. But Florida Senator Nancy Detert, R-Venice, told the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times that she instructed her treasurer to return the money she received from Allied Veterans because she is concerned that a charity could be forced to pay it back under Florida's claw back laws.
Commissioner Anderson, who ran unopposed and had plenty of money left over in his campaign coffer, donated more to Boy Scout and veterans charities than he took in from the internet cafes before the scandal broke. When asked if he was concerned that his donations could be subject to the Florida claw back laws, Anderson said, "Not in my case - because campaign donations to charities cannot be tied to specific campaign donors. It is just left over funds based on the aggregate received."
Brevard Times reached out to Commissioner Bolin for comment about the campaign contributions she received but she did not respond to our request.
Internet Cafe Contributions to Brevard County Commissioners:
Andy Anderson: $4,500
Mary Bolin: $4,000
Robin Fisher: $1,500
Trudie Infantini: $1,000
Chuck Nelson: $0
Brevard County State Legislators
The Miami Herald researched contributions connected to Allied Veterans of the World made to all Florida state lawmakers. Former Senate President turned lobbyist Mike Haridopolos (R-Merritt Island) topped the list of Brevard County state politicians with $14,400 in campaign contributions followed by Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) with $11,500. John Tobia (R-Melbourne Beach) came in third with $5,000. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) was the only Brevard County state legislator that did not receive any contributions, according to the Herald.
*Richard Morris lost his race for County Judge Group 10 in 2012. He received $500 from Davis Internet Management Co.
Map: Brevard County Google Map of "Internet Arcade" search.