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May 07, 2015

Fla. Grants Millions to Charity Led by Lobbyist's Daughter

A Florida child-abuse nonprofit founded by the daughter of a prominent lobbyist has received nearly $7 million in legislative appropriations in the last four years, far more than other children's charities, according to investigative news site Florida Bulldog. Lauren's Kids is led by Lauren Book, whose father, Ron Book, represents the Miami Dolphins, private prison operator GEO Group, and other big corporate clients in Tallahassee.

Lauren's Kids is slated to get $3.8 million of $19 million allocated by lawmakers this year for nonprofits pursuing "school and instructional enhancements." Most of the 26 other groups set to benefit from the fund would get less than $300,000 each under current budget plans. Lauren's Kids, which draws both Republican and Democratic leaders to its events, received $3.8 million in 2014 and about $3.15 million the over previous three years.

Ms. Book, a victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a nanny, started the charity in 2007. She said it gets no special favors from state officials, telling Florida Bulldog the process for securing funds "is highly competitive" and subject to "intense scrutiny" by lawmakers and the governor's office. Most of the group's revenue — which also includes funds from a $1 check box on Florida car-registration-renewal forms — goes to a program that trains teachers and child-minders to identify and report cases of abuse.