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Gov. Rick Scott's new Republican-funded website focuses on tea party

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott launched a new campaign on Thursday, once again targeting his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

But Scott's latest effort isn't coming from his own pocket.

It's from state party donors.

In an e-mail to supporters on Thursday, Scott announced the redesign of his campaign website, www.rickscottforflorida.com. Paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, it prominently featured Scott's ties to the conservative tea party movement and encouraged Floridians to e-mail lawmakers and urge them to pass his budget proposal.

"Taxing and borrowing is not a solution to fixing the budget shortfall," read a suggested e-mail on Scott's site. "Please join with the majority of Floridians who denounce the out of control spending that is happening in Washington and in Tallahassee."

The Republican Party temporarily shut down the site on Tuesday afternoon because it did not receive the party's "final approval."

"We just want to make sure it's balanced," party spokesman Trey Stapleton said.

Leaders in the Republican-led, veto-proof Legislature have vowed to cut spending, but many do not support the specifics in Scott's proposal, which cuts $1.7 billion in taxes and fees while reducing public school spending by $1.75 billion.

"Whether or not we're going to do everything he's asking for, I don't know," said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Weatherford, who is in charge of House elections in 2012, said the budget will show the "fiscal restraint" Scott is seeking.

"Philosophically, we're approaching the session in the same way," Weatherford said. "I don't have a problem with it."

Asked why he would spend Republican Party money to campaign against Republicans, Scott said, "Because it's what I ran on."

Scott, a Naples businessman, spent more than $73 million on his own money on his campaign for governor, painting the Republican-controlled Capitol as overrun by special interests and career politicians.

"I'm very thankful that the RPOF is focused on the issues that I ran on, that we're going to make sure get implemented," Scott said. "I'm very appreciative of all their actions to try to make sure that the things that I believe in actually happen."

The site featured a new one-minute, campaign-style video; a five-question survey; and at least five mentions of the tea party, including one on his biography page and three social media avatars on a page within the site devoted to the tea party. Scott's communications team has identified Facebook and Twitter as crucial in their effort to push Scott's agenda through the Legislature.

The site had three mentions of "Republicans," not including the disclosure that the state party paid for the site.

One was a blurb from Senate Republican Leader Andy Gardiner of Orlando saying "Senate Republicans" joined Scott in his call for less regulation.

The other two were press releases on the news page: one referring to Scott as a "newly elected Republican" and another promoting Scott's speech to Republicans at a recent Lincoln Day Dinner in Martin County.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

Gov. Rick Scott's new Republican-funded website focuses on tea party 03/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:21pm]
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