By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Gov. Rick Scott is now in the crosshairs of a political action committee pushing for action on climate change.
The New York Times reports that a liberal one-issue Super PAC is going to spend millions of dollars—$100 million to be exact– on fighting candidates around the country that are against taking action on climate change.
According to the Times, Scott is one of the group’s main targets:
The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.
In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.
The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.
Scott’s re-election race has long been expected to be one of the most closely-watched and expensive races during this year’s midterm elections.
Scott’s poll numbers are, at best, a little weak. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed former-Republican-Governor-turned-Democratic-candidate Charlie Crist is ahead of Scott 46 percent to 38 percent.
Scott had been gaining a considerable amount of ground in the polls compared to a year ago, but that momentum has slowed.
However, because Crist would have to win a primary first, the GOP has been able to begin bolstering Scott’s re-election well ahead of the Florida Democratic Party’s time table to fully champion a candidate for the 2014 Gubernatorial Election.
Scott’s position as the current governor of Florida also gives him a considerable edge over Crist, who is largely expected to face off against Scott in November.
Today, Scott is the GOP establishment, and rather than having to create a campaign apparatus from square one, he has the GOP party machine behind him.
His campaign operation is unlikely to ramp up any time soon, because it doesn’t need to. He can court voters far more effectively as a governor criss-crossing the state and doing his job than as a candidate.
Last week, Scott barnstormed major TV markets across Florida, holding pep rallies to tout $480 million in teacher pay raises passed in the latest state budget while casting himself as a champion of public schools.
It also helps that Scott has a fundraising power that few people in the state can match. Unlike his last race, Scott will likely not even have to contribute his own wealth to his campaign.
Already, his political action committee, Let’s Get to Work, has raised more than $10 million.
So, news that a large and well-funded Super PAC is getting into this race comes at a good time for Crist.
Lastly, The New York Times also reported that Scott is not the only Republican from Florida that could be targeted by the new Super PAC.
According to the Times:
This month, NextGen asked supporters to pick one congressional candidate, from five running this year, for the group to target in its next ads. Four of the five candidates were Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. But the fifth was a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who has close ties to the oil and gas industries and has been an outspoken supporter of the Keystone pipeline.
It is unclear how aggressively his group will move against other Senate Democrats: Asked whether Democratic control of the Senate was necessary to advance his climate agenda, Mr. Steyer said, “As long as we have this partisan divide on energy and climate, it’s got to be important.”
Rubio, who sits on the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has said he doubts the threat of global warming.