Super PAC to use climate change issue against Gov. Rick Scott

Published May 25, 2014

A California billionaire is going after millionaire Gov. Rick Scott over climate change, hoping to rally passive voters as Scott seeks re-election in November.

Tom Steyer's Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, says Florida is among the states in which it will spend up to $100 million in 2014 to make climate change a "wedge issue" among voters who may otherwise stay home

"NextGen Climate and our partners will mobilize low-propensity Hispanic voters by nano-targeting in South Florida and the I-4 Corridor," a strategy memo reads, signaling the effort will be on a ground game rather than paid media.

The memo includes quotes from Scott casting doubt on man's contribution to climate change and signals one tactic will be to highlight Scott's initial refusal to join a lawsuit against BP for the gulf oil spill.

The effort has larger overtones given Sen. Marco Rubio's own doubts about man's contribution to climate change and Rubio's 2016 presidential aspirations. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, also looking at a 2016 run, has made similar comments.

"In Florida, millions of people and trillions of dollars in assets are at risk due to rising sea levels," Steyer, who got rich as a hedge fund executive, wrote in an opinion article Thursday for the liberal Huffington Post. "Bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics means making politicians feel the heat — in their campaign coffers and at the polls — and it's time we voters make a change."

NextGen says it will spend $50 million and hopes to raise another $50 million (Web ads are already up). The effort includes U.S. Senate races in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire, and gubernatorial contests in Maine and Pennsylvania.

Scott is also feeling pressure from evangelicals in Florida, who are circulating a petition urging him to take action to combat climate change.

"As Christians, we believe that God's grace empowers us to honestly confront the challenges we face and change for the better," it reads. "To meet these challenges, we need leaders who understand our duty to God's creation and future generations. That's why we are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to create a plan to reduce carbon pollution and confront the impacts of a changing climate."

A Scott spokesman defended the governor's record.

"Gov. Scott has received praise from groups such as the Everglades Foundation and Audubon Florida for his commitment to Florida's environment," said Scott spokesman Greg Blair. "Rick Scott has a long record of protecting Florida's natural treasures, while Charlie Crist and his allies are full of hot air."

Crist talks about VA

Speaking of Crist, the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate last week called on Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid the scandal over VA problems.

"I appreciate Secretary Eric Shinseki's service to his country, and while we don't know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they've earned and deserve. That confidence is gone," said Crist, who also noted that tens of thousands of veterans in Florida lack health insurance because state leaders declined to accept federal funding for expanding Medicaid coverage.

"If I were governor," Crist said, "rather than using this moment as a political tool, I would take immediate action to employ any and all resources needed to make sure that our veterans here in Florida get the care that they need and deserve. I'd start by calling the Legislature back in a special session to expand coverage to the more than 41,000 Florida veterans who fall into the health care gap and are not currently insured due to Rick Scott and the Legislature's failure."

Crist didn't exactly keep politics out of it, though. He sent supporters an email asking them to sign a petition to expand health coverage in Florida, and the link directed them to a fundraising page.

"Crist is exploiting veterans to raise a few bucks while Gov. Scott is leading the charge against the VA's unacceptable actions. That's called leadership — something Charlie Crist wouldn't recognize if it hit him in the face," said Florida GOP spokeswoman Susan Hepworth.

Ross on 'Connections'

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, appears on "Political Connections" on Bay News 9 today, discussing the VA scandal, health care reform, Benghazi and the 2016 presidential campaign.

Jeb Bush would be a stronger candidate than Marco Rubio "by far," Ross said in the interview airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Nelson on team name

Democrat Bill Nelson joined 49 other U.S. Senate colleagues on Thursday in urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the Washington Redskins' name because they consider it a racist slur.

"I do not think a continuation of the name Redskins for the Washington football team is appropriate in this day and age,'' Nelson wrote.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has not taken a stance on the team's name.

Outcry on Cuba plan

After Charlie Crist said he wanted to go to Cuba, Gov. Rick Scott condemned the move.

"When he spends money there, he's helping the Castro regime," Scott said recently in Miami.

But more people, business leaders and politicians are heading to Cuba these days — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a consulting company that, over the past decade, has done $368,000 worth of Web services for Scott, top Republican lawmakers and the Republican Party of Florida.

"It was the trip of a lifetime, and we can't wait to go back," Sandi Poreda, senior public relations specialist at Taproot Creative wrote on its blog May 8, the day after Scott criticized his opponent's travel plans.

Florida Democrats drew attention to Poreda's blog and how it mirrored some of Crist's justifications for wanting to go in stating, "Any good researcher knows that seeing something for yourself is better than hearing someone else tell you about it."

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this week's Buzz.