Fla. Legislators, Including Miami Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Took $1 Million From Internet Gaming Front

When the dust clears, will Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll be the only Florida politician whose career goes up in smoke over the federal bust of an Internet gaming ring posing as a veterans' charity? An AP investigation this morning suggests not, because Carroll was far from the only one in Tallahassee taking cash or doing favors for the group.

In fact, firms connected to the Allied Veterans of the World -- which was indicted for racketeering as 60 people were arrested this week -- pumped more than $1 million into Florida campaigns, including Miami's own Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

See also:
-- Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll Resigns Over Ties to Racketeering Case

Diaz de la Portilla took donations from four people arrested in the federal crackdown plus some of the gaming companies connected to Allied Veterans, the AP reports. What's more, he's been backing a bill that would have moved Internet gaming cafés out of the shadows and put them under state regulations.

But the Miami Republican says he knew nothing about the veterans' group or the Internet firms breaking the law.

"There's no way for any of us to know what's going on behind closed doors or with these individuals," Diaz de la Portilla tells the AP.

The veterans bust already claimed Carroll, Gov. Rick Scott's second-in-command, who resigned Tuesday soon after the feds began arresting top figures at the veterans' group.

Carroll had consulted for the group, appeared in an ad for it, and -- like Diaz de la Portilla -- backed legislation that would have helped its legally dubious business.

GOP leaders have been squabbling over what to do with donations from the veterans' group (the AP found that the Republican Party received about $300,000, while the Dems got $100,000). Scott has vowed to return about $1,000 he received from the group, but the party as a whole hasn't promised anything of the sort.

In a statement to the AP, Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry said he was "reviewing the most appropriate options."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink