Lobbyists and businesses vying for lucrative contracts at the Orlando International Airport gave airport board member Dean Asher nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions during his run for state senate, reports Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel.
Asher, who ran for the SD 13 seat against Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart, brought in $96,000 from companies he deals with as a member of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, including a couple conspicuously timed checks.
HMSHost, which was awarded a contract extension worth $70 million, cut Asher a $1,000 check a few weeks before Election Day.
Despite the seeming impropriety, Asher insists he is “a pretty ethical guy” and does everything “by the book.”
“Nobody said to me, ‘I’m giving this check to you because I want business at the airport,’” the Republican realtor said. “If you look at Mayor [Buddy] Dyer or Mayor [Teresa] Jacobs’ contributions, you’re going to see the same people.”
Campaign finance records show Dyer brought in $45,000 from airport contractors and lobbyists during his 2015 campaign and Jacobs took in $38,000 from during her uncontested run for county mayor in 2014.
Airport contractors also insisted that they weren’t seeking to influence Asher’s vote on the board with the contributions, and Asher suggested that many of the donations likely stemmed from being endorsed by Associated Builders and Contractors.
The chair of the local ABC chapter, Mark Wylie, hosted a fundraiser for Asher and others on Sept. 28 and several airport vendors donated to him around that time, including an executive at Bags Inc., 3E Consultants and Cemex, the company that operates rental car brands Alamo, Enterprise and National.
A source close to an airport vendor that wishes to remain anonymous, however, said their company was directly approached for contributions.
“The system is sort of tailor-made for that kind of activity to be not just acceptable, but common place,” the person said. “There’s a lot of power in those seats and how those votes go.”