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Rick Scott raises $2 million for inaugural party — so far

TALLAHASSEE — Incoming Gov. Rick Scott has $2 million on hand to celebrate his inauguration. And more cash is on the way.

Contribution reports released Monday show Scott has collected more than double the amount Gov. Charlie Crist spent on the inauguration after his 2006 victory.

Scott, who won the closest governor's race in 134 years in Florida, said his supporters will continue raising money until he's sworn in Jan. 4. The celebration is being run by Spencer Geissinger, who has helped plan four presidential inaugurals.

Scott, 58, would not say how much he plans to spend. He referred to his inauguration website, scottcarrollinaugural.com, which includes the list of stops on his seven-city tour leading up to two days of public and private events in Tallahassee.

"I'm raising money for those events," Scott said. "We know what those things are going to cost us, so we're raising money for that."

So far, Scott has received 55 contributions for $25,000, the maximum amount. Some are from groups he ridiculed during the campaign as "insiders" and blamed for helping push the state into an economic crisis. Now he says the money shows these groups are buying into his agenda.

Some of the checks are from:

• Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in the state;

• The GEO Group, which operates three private prisons in Florida and dozens more around the world; and

• U.S. Sugar, whose $197 million deal with the state for Everglades restoration Scott ridiculed during the campaign as a "secret tax" on South Florida landowners.

Scott has also taken maximum contributions from lobbying firms (Brewton Plante, Tripp Scott and Holland & Knight) and groups that initially helped fund his primary rival (Robert Gidel's Liberty Partners and Green Solar Transportation, run by a pair of South Florida doctors, Paul Zimmerman and Gerald Glass).

"Today, Floridians continue to be disappointed that Rick Scott's promise to shake up business as usual was simply another lie," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman. "He wasted no time putting up a 'for sale' sign outside the governor's office."

In 2006, Crist spent about $800,000 on his inauguration after scaling back plans for a $2.5 million party. Crist cut his budget saying it was "a mistake" to spend that much while people were struggling to pay property insurance and property tax bills.

Four years later, Floridians continue to cite those bills among their top issues but have added unemployment and an ongoing foreclosure crisis to their list of concerns.

In 1999, Jeb Bush raised $1.6 million for his first inauguration. After his re-election, Bush collected about $2 million, much of it from businesses seeking state contracts or changes in state laws.

Scott has turned to many of the same industries for money.

"I'm not sure what the right number is," Scott said about inaugural spending. "It's important to have a celebration."

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Rick Scott raises $2 million for inaugural party — so far 12/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 10:37pm]
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