Bon Voyage, Florida: Lawmakers set sail for Bahamas
Even by Tallahassee’s standards, Steve Crisafulli’s idea for an upcoming fundraiser for House Republicans is pretty showy.
It’s a three-day trip to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Cruise Line’s “Disney Dream” where guests will stay in deluxe oceanview stateroom with Verandah (cabins that usually fetch about $3,000).
Set to sail from Port Canaveral -- located in Crisafulli’s House district -- the Disney Dream and its 1,458 crew members and 4,000 passengers will anchor in ports of call Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s “private island paradise.”
Floating atop international waters, lawmakers will soak in the contributions while luxuriating on the 14-passenger deck ship and its many bars (“Evolution Night Club, anyone?”). Guests will get a $200 onboard credit and all meals included.
When asked about the rumors of the upcoming fundraiser on Tuesday, Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, confirmed the fundraiser is set for an Aug. 1 launch.
All that guests have to provide so they can attend is a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida.
(Trend alert: It’s yet another planned event at Disney for House Republicans, many of whom are young, upwardly mobile men with large growing families. Last year, they gathered at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for a retreat, where things got rowdy.)
Crisafulli, who becomes speaker in 2014, has been busy this summer raising money for House races, which is part of his job as speaker designate.
“It’s a lot of work, but I signed up for it,” he said.
Crisafulli, who turns 42 on July 26, said the cruise event was his idea.
"I’ve always been happy to show off the cruise industry,” he said. “It’s something I thought of, because I grew up with Disney and thought this would be nice.”
He said he’s been working on signing up guests for the fundraiser with Trey McCarley, his campaign fundraiser who has worked on numerous other campaigns, such as those for agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel.
Crisafulli said that when he told House Speaker Will Weatherford about it, the current speaker said he was interested in taking the trip. Asked Tuesday if he was going, however, Weatherford’s office replied via email that the current speaker would not, in fact, be attending.
Asked how the three-day voyage might be perceived, Crisafulli sounded unconcerned. He promised that Disney wasn’t paying. He said Disney’s government affairs lobbyist, Jacob DiPietre, knew of the fundraiser but hadn’t been involved in planning it.
“We’re paying for it,” Crisafulli said. “It’s not like we’re out there doing something wrong. It’s just like any other fundraiser, we’ll be transparent about it.”
Asked again how lawmakers were paying for it, Crisafulli said he wasn’t sure of that yet. Which lawmakers would attend? Which lobbyists? Who would pay for lawmakers to go, including Crisafulli and his wife and two kids?
“We haven’t figured out the details,” Crisafulli said. “We’re working on the details to make sure it’s in line with what we can do.”
Later, he issued a statement about the trip. Here it is:
Beginning Thursday, August 1st, and running through Sunday August 4th, the RPOF House Majority campaign will hold a fundraiser aboard the Disney Dream, with two ports of call in Nassau, Bahamas and Castaway Cay.
Donors will receive a $200 onboard credit, a deluxe oceanview stateroom with a verandah, and all meals will be included in exchange for a $50,000 contribution to RPOF.
Outside of dinner those three nights, no other activities are scheduled, which allow attendees and their families to enjoy the time however they would like.
The event is paid for entirely by RPOF, there is no in-kind contribution from Disney.
RPOF depends entirely on the generosity of contributors from all walks of life, and people give to RPOF in two ways, their time and their money. Our responsibility is to make sure we show our appreciation to our contributors in an ethical and transparent manner, and the RPOF finance team is always seeking creative ways to reward donors and volunteers at every level.