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PACs behind ‘ghost’ candidates in key Senate races were run out of business lobbying group’s HQ, records show

Two political committees that spent more than half a million dollars promoting so-called “ghost” candidates in three important state Senate races last year were based out of the Tallahassee headquarters of a big-business lobbying group, according to records obtained in a criminal investigation.

Tax and bank records for the now-defunct political committees used the same street address as Associated Industries of Florida, a lobbying group that represents corporate giants such as Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar Corp. and Walt Disney World.

Emails show that a Republican political consultant who helped set up the bank accounts for the two political committees asked the bank to mail checks to the same address, where AIF operates out of a 15,000-square-foot mansion one block from the Florida Governor’s Mansion.

The tax, bank and email records were subpoenaed by investigators in Miami, where they are prosecuting former state Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles and the financially struggling friend they say Artiles bribed to run as an independent candidate in one of the three Senate races. Authorities say it was part of a scheme to confuse voters and siphon support from the Democratic candidate in the race — which the Republican candidate ultimately won by 32 votes out of more than 210,000 cast.

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