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Rick Scott converts travel aide ‘body man’ to campaign job

A subtle shift is meant to avoid appearance problems.
'Body man' Wes Maul at far left, arms folded, with Gov. Rick Scott at 2015 Associated Industries of Florida pre-session reception [Scott Keeler - Times]
Published May 9, 2018
Updated May 9, 2018

Florida governors have long had a travel aide or "body man" at their side at official events to hold a cell phone, fetch a bottle of water and take pictures. He's the clean-cut young man usually hovering just beyond camera range.

But now that he's in full U.S. Senate campaign mode, Gov. Rick Scott has shifted his travel aide from a taxpayer-funded job to one paid for by his campaign.

The move is intended to avoid embarrassing and legally dubious situations in which a state employee would engage in political activity on state time, a serious no-no.

"All campaign staff are paid by campaign resources and travel with the governor to campaign events," Scott campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in an e-mail. "No taxpayer paid staff travel with the governor to campaign events."

The travel aide's job has long been a stepping stone to political advancement. Scott's new chief of staff, Brad Piepenbrink, held the job in the governor's first term; so did Dave Mica Jr., chief of staff at the Florida Lottery, and Wes Maul, Scott's director of emergency management.

State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, got his political start as a travel aide for former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Scott's opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, announced in March that longtime staff member Shahra Anderson is serving as political director of his re-election effort.

In response to questions, Nelson's staff cited a U.S. Senate ethics rule that allows federal employees to engage in political activity on their own time, subject to limits.

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