The Miami New Times has a new investigation showing that a right-wing group – funded by big-money Republican Political Action Committees and Florida Power & Light – has formed to mimic a progressive group and is running online attacks against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

The new right-wing group has taken the name “Florida Strong,” which has been used by a Democratic-leaning group for years.

The director of the original “Florida Strong” group told the New Times that “she found out about the new, right-leaning PAC from a friend, who saw the anti-Gillum ads on Facebook and was confused by their rightward slant.

‘She said that the messaging seemed way off-base for Florida Strong, so she sent me a screenshot…Imagine my shock when I saw our name next to anti-Gillum ads…’”

The New Times reports:

“So who is paying for these attacks? According to state campaign-finance records, the new Florida Strong political action committee’s funding comes from a small cadre of right-wing donors, including $15,000 from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, $9,000 from a group called “Sunshine State Conservatives,” $4,000 from another PAC called the “Responsible Leadership Committee,” $25,000 from a pro-Trump PAC called the “Freedom First Committee,” and a whopping $100,000 donation on March 1 from former Sarasota state legislator Patrick K. Neal, who is now a major real-estate developer around Florida.

But perhaps the most striking donation came in the form of a $25,000 check on September 28 from Florida’s largest power company — Florida Power & Light, one of Florida’s four state-regulated electricity monopolies.

FPL representatives did not respond to a message from New Times yesterday evening. But the timing of FPL’s donation — long after the August primary, as Gillum continued to lead in the polls — suggests that the company is pumping more money into the political race to try to back Ron DeSantis into the governorship.”

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book – Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles – comes out this fall.

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