9 Investigates: Strip mall casinos' newest bid for survival



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Channel 9 investigated strip mall casinos that are funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations through a committee to politicians and other committees.

And when investigative reporter George Spencer followed the paper trail, he discovered the committee was bank-rolled by a software company that benefits from strip mall casinos.

"My gut reaction is that they're trying to buy access and buy influence," said John Sowinski of NoCasinos.Org.

Sowinski said it comes from a new committee called Save Our Internet Access.

Save Our Internet Access lists its only purpose as "promoting education of electors on the importance of internet access in Florida..." and helping them organize.

WFTV discovered, the chairwoman of Save Our Internet Access is also a primary Tallahassee lobbyist for a company which produces software for the computers in internet cafes.

The committee was founded last February and has already spent $557,000, mostly in donations to candidates and committees.

On a single day, May 30, it shelled out $30,000 to Senate Majority 2012, $10,000 to House Victory 2012, $10,000 to the Republican Party, and about $60,000 more to other committees and campaigns.

So where does Save Our Internet Access get that donation money?

Records show $351,000 of it came from Arcola Systems, a company that makes strip mall casino software, and the same company which pays the Save Our Internet Access chairwoman Allison Carvajal to do its Tallahassee lobbying work.

"Over half a million dollars that they're using to help bankroll the campaigns for people who are going to be making decisions in Tallahassee about whether they have to shut their doors," said Sowinski.

To be clear, there's nothing improper about the committee donations or the involvement of Arcola and its lobbyist.

Save Our Internet Access also donates to other committees, which often also have vague names.

Carvajal said she wasn't able to speak to WFTV for this story.