WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott acknowledged Tuesday what his staff had refused to disclose: He flew to Colorado over the weekend to attend a secretive policy retreat hosted by powerful conservative donors Charles and David Koch.
"It was very interesting," Scott said. "They wanted basically to know what am I doing in Florida."
Scott said he gave an overview of his agenda since taking office in January: education and Medicaid reform, tax breaks for businesses, drug testing welfare recipients and overhauling the public employee pension system.
The billionaire Koch brothers are widely influential in national politics and helped spur the tea party movement through groups like Americans for Prosperity.
Also attending the retreat near Vail were Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Bob McDonnell of Virginia, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
A spokesman for Koch Industries, one of the nation's largest private companies, told the Denver Post on Friday that the purpose of the conference "is to develop support for the kind of free-market policies and initiatives that can get our country back on the path to economic prosperity and sustained job creation."
Scott's schedule over the weekend listed no events, unusual because he has worked most weekends. Times/Herald reporters asked if he had anything going on and were met with silence or vague answers from several members of his staff.
The Koch summit was noticed because McDonnell put it on his schedule last week.
"I told anybody who asked me," said Scott, who was in Washington on Tuesday to host a breakfast a biotech industry convention.
Scott said he found the sessions useful.
"In this job, you've got to constantly listen to what other people are thinking. Part of what you do in business is you say, 'Gosh, they are doing something, well, I'm going to see if I can do it better.' The same with this … okay, what are people doing that is working in their states?"
The Koch brothers draw fire from Democrats given their clout over conservative policies, and some liberals are staging a protest in Colorado, where the retreat began Sunday.
Scott uses his own plane, even when doing official state business, but his weekend trip still drew complaints from Democrats in Florida. Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff used Twitter on Monday to question the governor's whereabouts.
With confirmation Tuesday, Jotkoff blasted Scott for flying off to "kiss the Koch Brothers' ring" while wildfires were spreading across the state.