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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

Pro-Lens group raising cash fast

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Published:   |   Updated: July 27, 2013 at 11:55 AM

In just three weeks, a new group formed to save the city's controversial new pier from being scrapped has raised more than $35,000 in campaign donations.

Citizens for the St. Pete Pier, a group of young professionals supporting the futuristic pier known as the Lens, filed its first campaign report Friday.

The bulk of the money was a $20,000 donation from INI Second Street Investments, a company based in Malibu, Calif. Records show the company's officers include Neil Irwin, a clothing designer and former St. Petersburg resident whose father, Ian Irwin, was well known in the city as a downtown developer. Irwin comments frequently on the group's Facebook page.

Friday was a deadline for candidates and political committees to file reports in the run-up to the Aug. 27 primary, which includes a citywide referendum of whether to build the Lens. The report covers a 19-day period beginning July 1.

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, the group that submitted more than 20,000 signatures to force the referendum, raised just under $2,000 during that time, bringing its total donations to more than $130,000. Its report shows it has spent more than $97,000 so far.

Other notable donors to Citizens for the St. Pete Pier include City Council members Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher and local restaurant owner Steve Westphal.

"It's enough to get a good start," said Jesse Landis, one of the leaders of the group. "We have efforts in place to bring in more money and spend that money."

Expenditures included in Friday's report include $17,000 to a Miami company for mailers. On Friday, the group launched a TV advertising campaign featuring two 30-second commercials that will run through to Tuesday.

Polls have repeatedly shown most residents in favor of scrapping the Lens. Leaders of Concerned Citizens said they are considering a TV campaign to ensure their supporters make time to vote.

codonnell@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7654

Twitter: @codonnellTBO

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