Frank Torres, Orlando Freelance Reporter

Naples Daily News Article- Pay whatever it takes to get next to the Governor

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I’ve had the chance to speak with reporters from all over, since the elections have ended (its part of my work). Last week, I had the chance to speak with Rick Scott’s hometown newspaper.

From the Naples Daily News,

UPDATE: It was picked up by the Treasure/Palm Coast paper as well.

I threw some heat at the donors for this inauguration, because some of them were holding Alex Sink signs 45 days ago. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m happy that the leftovers will be going towards Operation Wounded Warrior and I want Governor-elect Scott to succeed and succeed quickly. We need to get people back to work.

I’m also hoping his communications team can return volley better than a one word E-mail.

NAPLES — The money is rolling in and some political experts say Florida should be prepared for an inauguration like one they may not have seen before.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott, a Naples businessman, had raised more than $1.15 million as of Dec. 6 for his Jan. 4 inauguration, according to recent contribution reports. That money will be used to pay for a variety of festivities – a youth concert on Jan. 3 and an inaugural ball on Jan. 4 – surrounding his inauguration.

“It’s a higher price than past inaugurations you saw,” said Frank Torres, an Orlando-based public affairs consultant.

Gov. Charlie Crist in 2004 shifted plans from a $2.4 million inauguration to more low-key events, after he was criticized for approving a plan to solicit donations of up to $500,000 for the celebration. Crist said in 2004 he instead planned to keep the costs below $1 million.

Crist also canceled his ball because “with the state of the economy he said it wouldn’t have been appropriate,” Torres said.

While the ball is back on for 2011, officials with the inauguration said it won’t be an entirely glitzy affair. Instead, Francis Rooney, former United States ambassador to the Vatican, told the Daily News in November the inauguration will be an inclusive and broad-based event.
The Honorable Francis Rooney and his wife Kathleen Rooney at their home in Port Royal in Naples on Nov. 17, 2010. The couple has been chosen to put on the inauguration for Rick Scott in Tallahassee.

The Honorable Francis Rooney and his wife Kathleen Rooney at their home in Port Royal in Naples on Nov. 17, 2010. The couple has been chosen to put on the inauguration for Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Greg Kahn/Staff

But an event of that scale comes at a cost, and Scott’s inauguration is on track to exceed the amount that Crist had intended to spend in 2004. While the Scott camp set a $25,000 contribution cap, the inauguration still has a bevy of big-name donors contributing to the festivities.

Thirty-seven contributors – including Rooney, who serves as chairman of the inaugural committee – each have contributed $25,000 to the event.

But Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero, said Floridians shouldn’t expect to see too many individuals on the inaugural contribution list.

“Lots of companies and corporations (contribute), some that have direct association surrounding the inauguration themselves,” Bergerson said. “You’re going to have lots of different categories.”

Another popular category of donor, Bergerson said, is the one that is “contributing to have some degree of access to the governor.”

Bergerson said a business like U.S. Sugar Corp., which donated $25,000 to the inauguration, could fall into that category. A “contribution to Scott inaugural festivities gives them an entry to have their voice heard,” Bergerson said.

U.S. Sugar isn’t the only big contributor. Several health-care related companies — like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and Naples-based Health Management Associates — have donated $25,000.

But the health-care industry isn’t the only one contributing to the Scott inauguration. Several Florida corporations, such as Tampa-based energy company TECO; Florida Crystals Corp., a West Palm Beach-based sugar producer and the Florida Optometrists Association have contributed to the inauguration.

Those corporate contributions often are construed as a way to get close to the governor or other members of the executive branch.

“Scott campaigned that he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests,” Bergerson said. “So supporting inaugural festivities is a way … in which corporations that have business with the state have a way to present their side of the issue.”

More simply, Torres said, these corporate contributions are “political greasing of the wheels at its finest.”

“It is to buy support, and to look at it any other way is naive,” Torres said.

Officials with the Scott camp say that assertion is incorrect. When asked if contributors were donating because they were looking for an “in” with the governor or other members of the executive branch, Scott spokeswoman Bettina Inclan answered with an unequivocal “no.”

“My comment to your question on the contributions is ‘no,’” Inclan said in an e-mail.

The inaugural committee hasn’t set a fundraising goal, but Inclan said no public funds will be used for the dozen or so events surrounding the Jan. 4 inauguration. Any money left over once all the inaugural bills are paid, Inclan said, will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs for wounded service members from recent global conflicts.

The powers that be will pay whatever it takes to get close to him...

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