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Chamber flips and endorses Scott, the man they spent millions to defeat

The Florida Chamber of Commerce may have spent millions to defeat him in the primary but, when it comes to the general election contest, they've decided to give some love to Republican Rick Scott.

The chamber endorsed an all-Republican line up in their November ballot endorsements announced today, supporting both Scott for governor over Democrat Alex Sink and Pam Bondi for attorney general over Democrat Dan Gelber. The chamber board spent the morning interviewing the candidates in Tampa today and spent the afternoon deliberating before announcing their picks in the hotly contested races.

The choice of Scott is the most interesting one. Since the Chamber entered into the endorsement game for the first time this year, they spent $3 million in the primary and directed it half of it to prop up the struggling candidacy of Attorney General Bill McCollum in the final weeks.

McCollum's 527 political committee, Florida First Initiative, received a whopping $500,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce two weeks out from the primary, and financed a weeklong statewide television ad blasting Scott for profiting from the “largest Medicare fraud in American history.”

McCollum's campaign also benefitted from advertising paid for by the Freedom First Committee, the 527 operated by Sen. Mike Haridopolos, which received another $525,000 from the U.S. Chamber and $199,000 from the Florida Chamber in the final month before the primary.

The endorsement is a bit of a slap to Sink, who once served on the chamber's board and has been hailed by its members for her 26-years as a business executive.

 “Rick Scott’s 35 years experience in creating jobs is the type of leadership that Florida’s economy needs,” said Steve Halverson, CEO of The Haskell Company and Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce in a statement. “Rick understands the central role businesses are to the health of our state’s economy, and his jobs creation plan will help develop the business climate needed for high-wage, high- skill jobs.”

The endorsement also follows a pattern by the state's Republican Party leaders, who have extended an olive branch to the primary rival they opposed and have virtually dropped any suggestion that he had a questionable past. (McCollum, however, remains the last holdout, and he has refused to endorse Scott.)

Bondi's endorsement is less of a surprise. The chamber endorsed her in the primary over her rivals and the chamber press release touted her "unshakeable pro-business convictions needed to excel as Florida’s top law enforcement officer."

Said Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff: “While their endorsements are not surprising, the Florida Chamber showed again they are simply a tool of the corrupt Republican establishment and special interest insiders that have created a mess in Tallahassee.  It’s clear Rick Scott simply wants to continue the failed policies that have left our economy as little more than a 'ponzi scheme,' with too many Florida families hurting during these tough economic times.''