By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign has been amassing millions in the past year. According to The Florida Times-Union, as of the last reporting period, Scott’s re-election campaign committee had raised a total of $9.3 million.
Among the big July contributors was Crystal Lagoons USA, which chipped in $101,000. Crystal Lagoons is the U.S. branch of Chile-based pool manufacturer Crystal Lagoons Corp., which Scott announced in May was setting up in Miami.
Also, Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, contributed $50,000. Meanwhile, Hartman & Tyner, the owner of Mardi Gras Casino, which includes the greyhound track in Hallandale Beach, contributed $100,000.
In a National Review story last month, Scott said he expected to have $25 million in the bank by the end of the year to use “in early 2014 to define my opponent.”
It’s been a busy couple of months for Scott’s campaign. Earlier this month, Scott came under fire for announcing to host a pricey gator hunt as a fundraiser. However, after news websites and social media lambasted the campaign, it was quickly called off. The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times reported:
Without explanation, Scott’s re-election campaign on Tuesday abruptly called off a planned “private gator hunt” in New Smyrna Beach on Oct. 18 for donors willing to pay $25,000 a head. The invitations said: “Space is limited.”
Word of the gubernatorial gator gambit quickly went viral on social media, and prompted questions about how the state would issue permits for it, not to mention the imagery of Scott campaign donors stalking a reptile that, despite its menacing image, has long been an unofficial symbol of Florida.
“The event has been canceled,” said John French, a Tallahassee lawyer who serves as chairman of Scott’s campaign effort, known as Let’s Get to Work. He declined to elaborate.
Most recently, his campaign announced a fundraiser in Pinellas at $50,000 per couple.
Even though the election is over a year away, Scott began raising an impressive amount of cash early on. During his last campaign in 2010, Scott spent more than $73 million of his own money.
However, Scott made it clear early on in his term that he would not spend as much of his own money the next time around, because he wouldn’t need to. Back in April 2012 the Herald/Times reported.
A reporter asked the governor whether he anticipated the need to write checks for a second campaign.
“I won’t have to,” Scott said, adding: “I’m running for re-election. I like this job. This is the best job you can imagine … In this job, if you care about anybody’s family in this state, you can have a positive impact. You can impact their education system.”
Scott’s political fund-raising 527 organization, Let’s Get to Work, collected $910,000 in the first quarter of this year. Six donors have kicked in $100,000 each in recent months: Miami investor Miguel Fernandez; The Villages; Blue Cross Blue Shield; United Group Underwriters, a Miami Gardens insurance firm; the Florida Retail Federation; and a political committee controlled by the Florida Optometric Association.
Asked how much a 2014 race would cost, Scott said: ”I don’t know what it will cost, but we’ll have the money to win.”
So far, he has been right. The fact that Scott can raise a significant amount of money for his re-election has also defined the looming election. It has made the pool of prospective Democrats—and Republicans looking to make a primary challenge to an unpopular governor—very small.
So far, only one person has signed up to face off against Scott next year: Democratic State Senator Nan Rich. According to the Times-Union, she raised $160,359 through the first half of this year, of which $101,107 was already spent.
There is also speculation that former Republican governor Charlie Crist will announce his run later this year or next. He changed political affiliation this year presumably to challenge Scott as the Democratic candidate.