While Gov. Rick Scott was in Paris last week, his re-election team pulled in nearly $700,000, with a large part of the harvest coming from U.S. Sugar Corp.
The “Let’s Get to Work” political committee posted $695,447 in contributions from 91 sources during the time Scott was highlighting the state to foreign aviation interests as part of Enterprise Florida’s June 14 to June 21 trade mission to the Paris Air Show.
The Tallahassee-based committee supporting Scott has drawn more than $6.6 million since the start of the year, with $1.27 million arriving since the start of June.
In 2012, the group collected $4.79 million and Scott — who spent more than $70 million on his 2010 campaign – has yet to actually open his own campaign account for 2014 although he has announced he is running.
The campaign committee money gives Scott an early edge over any Democratic challenger.
However, Susan MacManus, a political-science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said fundraising for the ultimate Democratic nominee shouldn’t be a problem because of the national attention expected to be drawn to the Florida contest.
“It’s considered one of the top governor’s races, if not the top governor’s race in the whole country, a lot of money will migrate here,” MacManus said. “If anything, for the governor, the pressure is on him. He knows that Morgan & Morgan is out there with a lot of money too.”
Morgan & Morgan is the statewide law firm that employs former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is considered a leading contender for the Democratic nomination even though the former Republican has yet to declare if he will enter the race.
As for the contributions posted last week by “Let’s Get to Work,” $127,750 came from health-care interests, and $308,798 from individuals and groups tied to real estate, development, banking, consulting and legal interests.
The Florida Realtors PAC dropped $75,000 into the campaign coffers, FCCI Services of Sarasota was good for $50,000, and St. Petersburg designer Ronald Wanek, Arcadia consultants KT Brightwaters LLC, the Campaign Account of Carlton Fields, Palm Beach developer Howard Leach and St. Petersburg developer Mel Sembler each gave $25,000.
U.S. Sugar, one of the major agricultural businesses in the Everglades Agricultural Area, planted $100,000 into the account.
The U.S. Sugar contribution came in the wake of Scott’s May 28 signing of a bill (HB 7065) that alters the Everglades Forever Act by designating $32 million a year for the River of Grass’ upkeep. U.S. Sugar supported the compromise bill.
The measure earned some reluctant praise from environmentalists after an amendment was removed that would have weakened water-quality standards and for extending until 2026 the $25-per-acre tax on growers within the agricultural area. The tax would otherwise have dropped to $10-per-acre starting 2017.
MacManus said Scott’s favorability ratings, which have shown slight improvement, could impact his future fundraising.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed that Scott was viewed favorably by 40 percent of voters and unfavorably by 42 percent. In March, Scott was viewed favorably by only 33 percent of voters and unfavorably by 46 percent.
The poll also showed Scott down 10 points to Crist in a hypothetical race, but up 6 points on former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich of Weston, the only prominent Democrat who has announced for the office.
Alex Sink, the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial candidate, has told the Tampa Bay Times she will decide by Sept. 1 on whether to make a second run for the governor’s mansion.
On the expense side for “Let’s Get to Work,” while Scott was in France the committee spent $13,107, with most of the money going to consultants and a fundraiser in Key West.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida