Campaign Contributions: It's a family affair

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CBS12 Investigates found a small number of wealthy families in our community donating the most to political campaigns in an effort to wield influence in American politics.

Who are the local families donating big bucks into the 2016 elections?

For some of the donors from South Florida, it’s a family affair.

CBS12 Investigates reviewed thousands of records from the Federal Elections Commission and found sugar barons and real estate tycoons, energy magnates and hedge funders, new money and old money donating to political campaigns.

Some of the contributions came from multiple people within the same family.

A search of the FEC database found multiple donations under the last names of investor Henry Laufer, Slim Fast creator Daniel Abraham, and San Francisco Giants part-owner Charles Johnson.

It’s not only who’s donating but how they are donating that’s so fascinating.

The four brothers and wives of the ‘big sugar’ Fanjul family have made a total of almost $700,000 to individual candidates.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, a contribution by one person made in the name of another person is prohibited.

We asked former GOP chairman Sid Dinerstein about campaign contributions made by multiple people within the same family.

“It may be that all four or five members of the family want to make a contribution to a particular candidate,” he said.

“What it’s more likely to be is one member of the family, one of the parents typically, has a limit of $2700 for a federal candidates, says ‘Well if you write a check and I write a check and you write a check and you write a check” then, now I’m giving $10,000 and that’s what that’s really all about.”

Dr. Kevin Wagner is a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University.

He said, “Because there is a limit on individual donations, people often seek out family and friends to make donations, so they can increase the amount the campaign takes in.”

“All that is perfectly legal. It only becomes a problem for example if a donor were to decide he wanted to donate more than the limit and—so—what he or she did was give money to other people and have them donate then you can have a problem with the law.”

But that problem has a problem of its own—proving the money came from someone other than who donated it.

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