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PolitiFact Florida | St. Petersburg Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

Tax dollars didn't pay for Gov. Rick Scott's robocalls

People fed up with Gov. Rick Scott — and particularly his love of robocalls — are declaring robocall revenge.

The anti-Scott group Pink Slip Rick recently encouraged Floridians to call Scott back and give him a taste of his own medicine.

The stunt got the attention of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who highlighted some of the calls on her Aug. 17 show. One that stood out came a woman who identified herself as Debra B.:

"Uh, yeah Gov. Rick Scott. Um, you got a lot of nerve spending a quarter of a million of our tax dollars to robocall people and tell them how good a job you're doing. You're the worst governor Florida's ever had."

Debra B. went on for a full minute, at one point quipping that if Scott "ran the Saudi Arabian desert, we'd be short on sand in five years."

We won't check that. But we did wonder if Scott spent $250,000 in taxpayer money to make robocalls.

Robocalls are usually reserved for campaign season, but Scott started his months after he was elected as a way to overhaul his image and reach voters without the filter of a newspaper.

"Hi this is Gov. Rick Scott. I wanted to personally call and share some very encouraging news about our efforts to get Florida back to work," he said in one call. "Unemployment is down for five straight months, bucking the national trend."

Other calls have talked about property tax cuts, fighting drug abuse and vetoing "wasteful special interest projects" by GOP legislators.

As a means of retribution, the group Pink Slip Rick had Floridians call Scott back at his office.

About 300 people ultimately left messages for Scott, said Susannah Randolph, who runs the Pink Slip campaign through a group called Florida Watch Action.

Which brings us back to Debra B.'s claim. How were Scott's robocalls funded?

The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Orlando Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post all reported that the Republican Party of Florida —not taxpayers — paid for the robocalls.

Party spokesman Brian Hughes confirmed for PolitiFact Florida the newspaper reports.

The party — relying on donations — spent about $500,000 on a series of robocalls and advertisements on Google touting Scott's achievements.

"I would say $500,000 for a variety of communication and outreach to the voters of Florida seems accurate," Hughes wrote in an e-mail to PolitiFact Florida.

In an interview, Randolph said she knew that the caller had her facts wrong and that the party paid for Scott's robocalls. But Randolph said that the only calls that were omitted from the Pink Slip Rick website were a couple that were profane.

"A lot of calls were opinions about the governor — their own personal stories about what they are going through," Randolph said. "A lot of folks calling in are average middle-class Floridians who don't follow politics the way we follow it. … We are not going to fact-check people's personal stories."

Back to Debra B. She said that Scott had "a lot of nerve spending a quarter of a million of our tax dollars to robocall people and tell them how good a job you're doing."

But he didn't spend tax dollars — the Republican Party of Florida picked up the tab.

Whether you like the calls or not, there's no doubt about this claim — it's False.

The statement

Says Gov. Rick Scott is "spending a quarter of a million of our tax dollars to robocall people."

A Florida voter, Aug. 17, in a robocall from the Pink Slip Rick website, played on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow" show

The ruling

Politifact ruling: False
He didn't spend tax dollars — the Republican Party of Florida picked up the tab. We rate this claim False.

Tax dollars didn't pay for Gov. Rick Scott's robocalls 08/28/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 28, 2011 7:31pm]
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