Ohio legislative leaders plan Florida fundraisers

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s top legislative leaders are preparing to host lobbyists and other contributors at back-to-back Florida fundraisers days before state budget deliberations begin, according to invitations to the events obtained by The Associated Press.

The separate events benefiting House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and newly-elected Senate President Larry Obhof, both Republicans, are scheduled for early next month.

Rosenberger’s 2017 Winter Warmer takes place Feb. 4 at the Bay Club, a luxury golf and country club in Bonita Springs, near Naples. Attending the general reception and dinner costs $1,000. Additional brunch and golf options are available to those who donate $5,000, $10,000 or $12,500 to Rosenberger’s campaign fund.

Obhof and his No. 2, Sen. Bob Peterson, host a reception Feb. 2 at Bagatelle, an upscale seafood restaurant in Key West. Donations benefiting the campaign funds of either Obhof or the Senate Republican caucus range from $250 to $5,000.

Both events will bridge the days between Republican Gov. John Kasich’s introduction of his two-year budget proposal and the start of legislative hearings on the plan. The document is traditionally the single most sweeping spending and policy blueprint of the legislative session. It’s debated for half a year.

House Republicans’ fundraising director Kenny Street said the fundraiser’s timing is unrelated to the budget.

“I believe that’s purely coincidental,” he said. “I know of no coordination between the two things.”

Street said the Winter Warmer is an annual tradition made possible by Virginia “Ginni” Ragan, who’s a member at the exclusive Bay Club. Ragan is a generous Republican donor. State campaign finance records show she’s given $1.5 million to mostly House campaigns since 2011.

Guests at the event enjoy golfing at the club and scheduling boat trips or fishing excursions with their own small groups, Street said.

“Entertainment comes in the form of the Florida sunshine,” he said. Street noted the event dates back at least to the tenure of Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder, who led the chamber from 2011 to 2014.