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Daniel Ruth

Supping with the new chief at $25,000 a pop

At this rate you have to wonder if the Rick Scott years will be less an exercise in governance than a public administration version of the Skull and Bones Society. Jeepers, this guy has spent more time in seclusion than Greta Garbo meets Thomas Pynchon. But that hasn't prevented the governor-elect from hitting up the deep-pocket spats-and-ascot set of Republican high rollers to drop $25,000 to attend a swank candlelight dinner with Scott on the eve of his swearing into office in January.

The event is being billed as the "Friends of the Inaugural Candle Light Dinner." You would think for $25,000 to feast on rubber chicken and sorbet, Scott could at least throw in a lamp or two.

The soiree comes at the end of a long day of preinauguration festivities, including a tribute to new first lady Ann Scott, a salute to the military and a parade honoring the blessings of taking the Fifth Amendment 75 times during a legal deposition. Okay, that last one was just for fun to get into the spirit of having a chief executive officer who at times has been more lawyered-up than BP.

Heading the steering committee (read: arm-twisters) to hector potential donors into forking over 25 large to put on a gilt-edged feedbag to sup with the new governor is a veritable Who's Who of Republican hotsy-tots, including former state GOP Chairman Al Cardenas, developer Armando Codina, sugar baron Pepe Fanjul, all-purpose big-shot Wayne Huizenga and developer Mel Sembler.

It looks like Scott borrowed Jeb Bush's Christmas card list.

On the stump during his campaign, Scott billed himself as Mr. Outsider, a lonely lamb unfamiliar with the ways of Tallahassee's entrenched power centers. You would have thought the candidate was something comparable to a street urchin suddenly thrust into high society.

Indeed, many Tallahassee lobbyists have noted they barely know the governor-elect. And that may be true. But Scott is certainly no stranger to the clients the Tallahassee lobbying corps represents. After all, when the new state chief executive personally knows, say Pepe Fanjul's nickname, which is Zippycakes by the way, why do you have to waste time with the Capitol's paid glad-handers?

To be sure, the $25,000 candlelight chow line — attended by the state's oligarchs — may suggest while access to the new governor cannot be bought, it can be had on a four-year lease.

In a rare moment of candor, perhaps because Scott had made his remarks in an event closed to the public and the press, the newly minted governor-elect recently told a group of the state's business intelligentsia that "I will always have more in common with you than any other politician."

Are you beginning to get an inkling this chap has all the populist leanings of King George III?

If you are a schoolteacher, or a corrections officer, or a faceless public employee, and the incoming Lord Voldemort of Tallahassee has just told a room full of raised-pinkie swells he will always have their best interests at heart, you have to be thinking you are going to have less job security than a joke writer for the Taliban.

But just think what a grand time everyone else will have at Scott's invitation-only banquet.

While decrying the insidious influence of special interests and Republican Party leaders for the sad state of Florida's financial affairs while he was on the hustings, Scott has decided to play spin the checkbook with a host of special interests, GOP mandarins and former Tallahassee movers and shakers now that he is moving into the Governor's Mansion.

In some respects, Scott's governorship might be best described as Jeb Bush Junta 2.0.

With Florida's unemployment rate hovering near 12 percent, when so many residents of this state awaken every day anxious over their futures, it does seem rather unseemly to be currying the favor of moguls, scions and robber barons to come up with $25,000 to simply dine with the new governor.

Maybe $25,000 is mere chump change to the likes of Scott and Sembler and Cardenas and Huizenga — merely the cost of doing business with the new administration — when many Floridians have watched the value of their homes plummet, if they still have one.

At the risk of apostasy, would the money being spent on a banquet for a bunch of blue-blooded insiders be better spent on the outsiders?

Does Rick Scott really want to begin his term on a note of: "Let them eat Cheez Whiz?"

Supping with the new chief at $25,000 a pop 11/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 22, 2010 7:12pm]

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