1. Florida Politics

For Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, campaign cash isn't a problem

Published Jan. 6, 2013

For all the talk about Gov. Rick Scott's terrible poll numbers, or his unique (among politicians) inability to connect with average voters, it's still hard not to see him as a slight favorite to win re-election in 2014.

Want a reason why? $4.6 million.

That's the amount of money Scott raised in 2012 through his political action committee, Let's Get to Work. It's an unheard of sum in Florida politics more than two years before an election and gives Scott essentially a year's head start on any possible competition.

Among the most recent big-money contributors: a $100,000 pre-Christmas donation from gambling outfit Bayfront 2011 Development. The group, which is a subsidiary of Genting, wants to turn the site of the Miami Herald into a massive casino-resort.

Other big donors include $150,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, $150,000 from the Florida Realtors Advocacy Fund and $100,000 from U.S. Sugar Corp.

Scott appears to be saving the money — rather than using it to contribute to other campaigns — as something of an attack fund for his political opponents.

Combine that money with the support of the Republican Party of Florida, the donations that will pour into Scott's personal campaign account (which he has not opened yet), and Scott's personal wealth, and you realize quickly that any opponent will be at a significant financial disadvantage.

Think money doesn't matter?

The candidate with the most money has won every race for governor in Florida going back to 1998 (which is as far back as online campaign finance records go).

2016 fodder

If you're already watching the 2016 race for president, here's something to take note of: Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan parted ways on the fiscal cliff deal.

Rubio was one of eight senators to vote against the deal while Ryan was among a minority of House Republicans to support the compromise.

Said Rubio: "I appreciate all the hard work that went into avoiding the so-called 'fiscal cliff.' I especially commend Sen. (Mitch) McConnell's efforts to make the best out of a bad situation. Nevertheless, I cannot support the arrangement they have arrived at. Rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out of the real fiscal cliff our nation is facing. But rapid economic growth and job creation will be made more difficult under the deal reached here in Washington."

And Ryan: "What I know in my conscience is 98 percent of the families in Wisconsin are not going to get hit with a massive tax increase."

Yoho bucks Boehner

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was re-elected speaker, but not before a handful of fellow Republicans voiced a different preference. Among them, newly elected Florida Republican Ted Yoho, who voted for Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Yoho, from Gainesville, is aligned with the tea party, a base that has not been pleased with Boehner. Yoho has gotten some attention around the Capitol because he took out longtime Rep. Cliff Stearns in the GOP primary. He also made news by refusing to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge.

"I came to Congress for a cause — not a job. I came here to make a difference and to stand up for what is right for America — not a political party. The gridlock in Washington is killing the American Republic. The people that I represent have had enough," Yoho said in a statement. "My vote today for Congressman Cantor was a signal that I will hold leadership accountable and challenge leadership when I feel that it is the right thing to do — just like I am held accountable to the people of my district."

New committee slots

A new Congress means new committee slots for Florida's delegation.

Sen. Bill Nelson assumes a new role as chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, where he has pledged to conduct "major investigations into crimes that target seniors," including financial scams.

Nelson will also serve on the Senate Budget, Finance, Commerce and Armed Services committees.

Rubio will remain on the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Small Business Committee.

Longtime Florida Rep. C.W. Bill Young will serve another term as chairman of the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee. It is the second time 82-year-old Young, R-Indian Shores, has gotten a waiver from Republican term limits on leadership positions.

Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, loses his seat as chairman of the Transportation Committee but is now chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rubio adds staffers

Rubio announced two staff additions: Alberto Martinez as deputy chief of staff and Brooke Sammon as deputy press secretary. The move brings a trusted operative closer into the fold and expands Rubio's press shop as he claims a bigger share of the national spotlight.

Martinez, a 33-year-old Miami native, has been close to Rubio since his start in Florida politics. He arrives in Washington after working as a paid adviser to Rubio's Reclaim America PAC and Mitt Romney's campaign. He served as communications director for the Republican majority while Rubio was speaker of the Florida House

Sammon returns to Capitol Hill after serving as the press secretary for Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Phil Gingrey of Georgia, Rubio's office said.

Times staff writers Alex Leary and Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's Buzz.