1. Florida Politics

Scott campaign, GOP paying big bucks for jet use

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign and the Republican Party of Florida have paid more than $227,000 for use of the private jet that Scott also uses for official state travel. The Cessna Citation is owned by a Naples business whose only officer is First Lady Ann Scott, at right. The jet tail number ends with the first lady's initials.

Campaign finance reports list 19 separate payments to Ann Scott's company, Columbia Collier Management LLC. The most recent payment is also the largest one to date in the campaign, a $41,000 transaction to the Republican Party of Florida dated Aug. 15.

The frequency and amount of payments for the plane's use picked up in May soon after the Times/Herald reported that neither Scott's campaign nor the party were reporting any expenditures for use of the plane by the campaign, as campaign finance laws require.

Castor opposes appeal

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wrote a letter to Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday urging them not to appeal the latest gay marriage ruling in Florida.

"If you choose not to appeal, the State would end discrimination and recognize the fundamental rights of all its citizens. This should be an easy choice," the Tampa Democrat wrote. "The State also would benefit by saving tax dollars and resources necessary to prosecute the matter through the federal courts. Pennsylvania and Oregon determined that this was the prudent course of action for their states and I recommend that you follow their lead. As reported, Pennsylvania's governor went against his personal views in deciding not to challenge a federal judge's ruling striking his state's same-sex marriage ban."

On Thursday, U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. A day later, the Florida Democratic Party also said the decision should not be appealed.

Bondi, who has appealed other recent court decisions, has said she thinks the U.S. Supreme Court should decide the issue.

Young's meal expenses

USA Today crunched numbers to find lawmakers spent $14.5 million in donors' money on food since 2011. And the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young was "one of the bigger spenders." An excerpt:

He racked up more than $240,000 in meal and food expenses, including dozens of bills from restaurants near his home in Woodbridge, Va. Almost always, the meals were described in federal records as feeding "constituents/visitors" although many of the eating establishments were more than 20 miles away from the U.S. Capitol and more than 700 miles away from his central Florida congressional district.

The suburban Virginia restaurants included the Carlyle Grand Café, a bistro where his campaign racked up more than $4,000 in expenses over nearly two dozen visits; chain restaurants such as Red Lobster and the Olive Garden; and El Charro, an informal Mexican restaurant about four miles from his home. A 1999 profile in his hometown paper described the restaurant as a Young favorite for family meals.

Late last year, when Young was hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his campaign underwrote more than $1,800 in meals at restaurants near the hospital and more than $9,700 for lodging at a nearby Marriott, federal records show. Young died at Walter Reed on Oct. 18.

Crist campaign gets millions

A committee closely tied to gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist sent $4.5 million to the Florida Democratic Party during the past two weeks. "Charlie Crist for Florida," paid three installments of $1.5 million to the party from Aug. 11 to last Wednesday, according to finance reports. The committee has funneled more than $8.2 million to the state party since December.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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