Gov. Rick Scott may wear the state seal on his cowboy boots, but it shouldn’t be popping up on his campaign website, say Florida Democratic Party officials, who argue that Scott isn’t following state laws prohibiting the use of the seal in public campaigns.
The official state seal appears when visitors to the campaign website click on a few videos, including a Feb. 3rd announcement of $80 million in cancer research and another on education funding. According to Florida statutes, “in no event shall approval be given for the use of the Great Seal for the following: (a) Political or campaign purposes.”
Florida Democratic Party’s communications director Joshua Karp says the law is well-known to both parties, but charges that Scott and his team “feel comfortable cutting corners.”
The campaign site, which launched Feb. 8, shows the seal only as part of videos made by the governor’s office “that are publicly available online and they can be used by anyone,” counters Scott’s new deputy communications director, Greg Blair.
Blair said the same goes for another criticism by the Democrats -- that the Scott campaign is using material -- pictures by staff photographers and press releases written by state workers -- paid for with taxpayer dollars on its campaign site. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook” for those, Karp said.
One press release written by a government staffer, titled “Gov. Scott: Statewide Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.4 Percent” (Dec. 20, 2013), appears on both the state website, flgov.com, and Scott’s campaign site. There are also photos on the campaign site that appear on the governor’s official photo gallery.
“This is all in the public domain,” Blair said.
“The governor has every right to take photos of himself, but he has an obligation to keep his official office separate from his campaign,” said Karp, who added the governor has plenty to spend.
Scott has raised $32,262,936 through January, while Crist, who announced his run in November, has raised a total of $5,048,031.
The issue also illustrates the longtime complaint about the power of incumbency.
In the fall, Scott’s use of taxpayer dollars came into question when the governor sent out thousands of letters to business-license holders and new attorneys, that also promoted his priorities. The governor's office denied he was campaigning on the state dime but doing his job of congratulating citizens.