By Martin Comas
August 15, 2020

The developer of the controversial River Cross development donated $50,000 during the final stretch ahead of Tuesday’s primary election to a political committee run by Republican strategists who have paid for attack ads against two county commissioners who have long opposed the massive housing project.

According to state campaign records, developer and lobbyist Chris Dorworth’s company, CED Strategies LLC, made the contribution on Aug. 4 to Greater Florida Foundation. That’s on top of $100,000 that CED Strategies gave to the same committee on July 9 for a total of $150,000.

Greater Florida Foundation is part of a family of political committees run by Republican strategists William Stafford Jones and Richard Coates that support candidates across the state. And in recent weeks, one of those Tallahasee-based PACs, Sunshine State Rising, paid for television ads slamming Republican commissioners Bob Dallari and Lee Constantine.

“This is just another example of Mr. Dorworth trying to control the narrative of these elections and thereby control the commission so he can use Seminole County as his own ATM machine,” Constantine said. “Fortunately, the citizens of Seminole County have seen beyond his dirty schemes and are going to reject them on Tuesday.”

Read the full article on Orlando Sentinel

The challengers in two Seminole County Commission primaries are drawing an infusion of cash from the owner of the land at the center of a controversial development — as well as support from a group of mysterious political action committees.

Former WWE wrestler and Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan, who is challenging incumbent Bob Dallari in the Republican primary for the county’s District 1 seat has taken in $6,000 from real estate firms led by Kenneth Clayton.

The same companies also gave $6,000 in $1,000 increments to Longwood Commissioner Ben Paris, who is vying to unseat incumbent Republican Lee Constantine in the District 3 primary.

The Clayton family has long owned the Hi-Oaks Ranch, 669-acres of former pastureland and old citrus groves east of the Econlockhatchee River and north of the Orange County line, that was proposed as the site for a mega development known as River Cross. Kenneth Clayton did not return calls for comment.

At the same time, a political committee is paying for advertisements attacking Constantine. And records show that the committee is run by the same Florida political operatives who run another committee that recently received $100,000 from a company owned by the developer of River Cross: Lobbyist and former legislator Chris Dorworth.

Paris, who could not be reached for comment for this story, recently said he supports the rural boundary and that he would have voted against the River Cross project “as it was presented” in 2018.

And yet another Tallahassee committee led by Jones – Greater Florida Foundation – received a $100,000 check on July 9 from CED Strategies, a Lake Mary real-estate firm owned by Dorworth. Though it wasn’t clear how the money was spent and the contributions to Morgan’s campaign came through different committees.

Orlando Sentinel