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Daniel Ruth

Public's business best not done in private

Gov.-elect Rick Scott could well spend the next four years more out of the sunshine than Dracula.

Gracious, for a chap elected to lead the fourth-largest state in the union, Scott has become so gun-shy around the scribbling corps he is beginning to make Thomas Pynchon look like a craven publicity hound.

Well, why not? During his campaign for the Governor's Mansion, which must look like a FEMA trailer to the fancy-pants mega-mogul, Scott avoided annoying reporters' questions with greater vigor than he did when he took the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a deposition.

This is not a man likely to ever be the pin-up boy for Information Please.

In recent days, Scott has embarked on a tour of the state that has been half grip-and-grin with the great unwashed and half a Skull and Bones Society sweat lodge attended by a debenture of financiers.

The behind-closed-doors soirees have included secret handshakes with all manner of business interests who have been given hoity-toity, For-Your-Checkbook-Only private access to the newly minted governor.

No doubt the closed-curtain chit-chat has been dominated by high-minded great social intercourse calling for good, transparent, accountable government that makes Plato's dialogues look like idle Facebook gossip.

Scott defended excluding reporters from his Plutocrat Lollapalooza 2010 Tour by arguing that many people — especially folks looking to grease more palms than a Chicago ward committeeman on election day — are reluctant to speak candidly in the presence of a bunch of ink-stained wretches who might possibly regard the sight of a governor-elect crawling into bed with the state's silk-stocking crowd as just a tad tacky.

"People are not as receptive to talking" in the presence of a gaggle of press passes, Scott mused. "If there's a lot of people, people don't want to talk."

Ah, from the mouths of compromised pols, a smidgen of candor emerges.

At the risk of committing naivete, if all these ascots of business interests wanted to talk about was improving the lives of Floridians — the same ones Scott was elected to represent — in areas ranging from infrastructure to education to law enforcement to the environment to putting the citizenry back to work, what would be the need to treat these tony coffee klatches as if they were more off-limits than the nuclear codes?

So far, Scott did allow that the conversation with the state's Association of Daddy Warbucks touched upon such topics as "fair" regulations (read: leave us alone), and tax incentives (read: leave us alone some more, but give us money) to attract jobs to the state.

Really now, if all the discussions with Scott were simply about the state's regulatory environment and job creation, why would these sessions with Florida's King Farouks have to be conducted in greater privacy than the planning for the Normandy invasion?

It also probably didn't help the perception that Scott is applying to become Tallahassee's answer to an upstairs French maid to the state's oligarchs that his Magnate Rolling Thunder Tour was paid for by the very same pinstripes of deep pockets who were lobbying the governor-elect for all manner of favors.

If Rick Scott were a NASCAR Ford, there wouldn't be a spare inch of metal left free for another decal.

During his Give Pieces of Silver a Chance Tour, various Scott factotums haplessly argued there simply wasn't room in the venues selected for the new governor to play spin-the-envelope as he palled around with the state's big shots to accommodate a reporter or two in the meetings, forgetting perhaps at least one public meeting was held in an airplane hangar.

At some point, and for his sake it better come before the governor-elect finds himself facing a violation of Florida's open records/meetings Sunshine Law, Rick Scott would be well served with an epiphany that he cannot manage his office as if he is still a corporate executive, perfectly free to have all the private meetings he wants.

Governors and other elected officials don't have that luxury. The public doesn't have that much confidence.

And when the body politic sees Scott, who hasn't even been sworn into office yet, flitting about the state on a trip financed by special interests in order to hold private pajama parties with those same special interests, it certainly doesn't bode well for the prospects of the hoi polloi who don't have the cash to pay for access to think that they will get a fair hearing for their concerns.

Rick Scott would do well to remember he's the incoming governor of Florida, not the front man of the Sub-Tropical Czarist Tour of 2010.

Public's business best not done in private 12/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 9, 2010 6:59pm]

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