Fundraiser with Gov. Scott aimed at tilting issue over online taxes
Gov. Rick Scott, who has vowed to fight "special interests" in the state Capitol, is wading directly into one of the biggest special interest food fights in Tallahassee: The battle over whether online travel sites should pay taxes on the full amount that customers pay for hotel rooms.
Scott is the special guest at a joint fundraiser on Friday between the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. Most members of the lobbying group want companies like Expedia and Orbitz to pay the same taxes as its members.
The invitation includes two blank lines for donors: One for how much they will give to the party and another to donate to the FRLA PAC. The invitation spells out that "all funds" will be used to support the Republican Party.
The invite to the unusual joint fundraiser (to be held at FRLA CEO Carol Dover's North Florida farm) is accompanied by a similarly unconventional e-mail.
Keith Overton, chief operating officer of the TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach and former FRLA chairman, bluntly tells other hoteliers that hte money-raiser is "an opportunity to reach out to the governor on this issue as well as several others which are important to our industry."
Overton's e-mail includes a news story that Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to use a Department of Revenue rule to end the legislative battle between online travel companies (OTC's) and hoteliers.
From Overton's e-mail (bolding is his):
"Whether you can attend or not, the most important task achieved will be the amount of money that we present to the governor," Overton wrote. "We have committed to raising $150,000. I can assure you the OTC's, having read this news, will be contributing large amounts of money!
"We need to raise more money than them and make our voice loud on these issues. There is no limit on the amount you can contribute. I am personally pledging $5,000 and encourage each of you to give as much as possible, but any amount you can spare will help our industry on this critical issue."