Published: Sep 28, 2012 6:20 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 28, 2012 6:40 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The ads have been running for months, but where is the money coming from?

Every Friday, from now until Election Day, WINK News Call For Action is following the money flowing into the hottest races.

In the Senate race between Incumbent Democrat Senator Bill Nelson and Republican Congressman Connie Mack, big ticket donors have shelled out nearly $20 million.

Nelson has a commanding fundraising lead. According to OpenSecrets.Org, the non-profit, non-partisan organization that tracks money in politics, Nelson has raised nearly $14 million. While his challenger has raised about $3.3 million.

About a third of the money on each side has come from outside the state.

"In order to win they're gonna go outside, and they're gonna go to their natural supporters," said Dr. Peter Bergerson, a Professor of Public Affairs at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Nelson's biggest contributors include employees from Morgan & Morgan, the personal injury law firm. Along with Finmeccanica S.p.A. an Italian defense contractor.
Mack's biggest donors include hedge fund group Elliot Management. And the Tampa law firm Adams and Diaco.

As Bergerson explains, the donors aren't buying votes, but rather making an investment with a politician with whom they already agree.

"It's not like they're buying a change, they're providing a base and they're providing this, oh please remember me," Bergerson said.

Some of the donors are playing both sides. For instance Private Equity group Vestar Capital Partners donated $30,000 to Nelson and $23,000 to Mack.

"In a tossup election like we may be seeing here in Florida, either candidate could win, so they cover their bets," Bergerson said.

We asked both campaigns to participate in this story, but neither wanted any part of it.