From voter fraud to the Supreme Court, Gov. Rick Scott opted not to weigh in on some
of the thorniest political issues of the day during a media briefing Tuesday, regularly
deferring to the Republican Party of Florida, attorney general Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement, the board of Citizens Property Insurance and others.
Scott, who has made fighting voter
fraud one of his main priorities as governor, has been mum about the
registration fraud case that state Republicans find themselves involved
in. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it
was conducting a criminal investigation of registration forms filed by
Strategic Allied Consulting, a private firm hired by the Republican Party of
Florida. About a dozen counties have reported questionable ballots, including one
that registered a dead woman to vote and others with addresses to a Land Rover
dealership and a gas station.
Scott has uttered no public
statements on the topic. On Tuesday, when asked by reporters about the case, he
Has he had discussions with the
RPOF, which has since fired the firm, about the case?
"The (Republican National
Committee) and the RPOF, they’ve done the right thing," said Scott, not
answering the question. "As soon as they had an inkling, they fired the
group that was doing that. Again, it’s the right thing to do. If somebody is
doing the wrong thing, they shouldn’t be registering voters in our state. So
they’re doing the right thing."
Asked if the case hurt the
credibility of Republicans to be associated with a firm that now under
investigation for fraud, Scott again dodged the question, this time by
answering with a long discourse about the importance of getting involved.
"My focus is on making sure
that I tell people all the time, that in our state, I want people to go
register to vote," Scott said. "They need to go talk to the
candidates. When you’re running for office, when you’re in your community or in
your state, vet the candidates, get involved, pick your candidates, support
them, and then go out the vote. That’s where my focus is."
That response is seemingly at odds
with Scott's get-tough, hands-on-approach with other efforts to fight
fraud, such as purging non-citizens from voting rolls. Before Tuesday's news
conference, Democrats had blasted Scott for his relative silence on the
issue. They criticized a fundraising letter he signed last week for the RPOF
that sought donations from contributors who supported Scott's voter purge.
"It's shocking and appalling
that the governor and the RPOF would solicit money while they remain embroiled
in an election frauds scandal," said Democratic Party Spokeswoman Brannon Jordan in a
Asked why he signed the letter,
Scott referred all questions to the RPOF.
"You have to talk to the Republican
Party of Florida about fundraising," Scott said.
So far, Scott's responses haven't
satisfied Democrats. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said Scott should appoint a
bipartisan task force to investigate Strategic Allied Consulting.
"Given the explicitly partisan
nature of this scandal, assurances must be provided to all Floridians that the
investigation into these allegations is thorough and fair," Deutch said in
a statement to Scott. "So far, your inaction in the face of this scandal
suggests that you are putting partisanship ahead of the integrity of Florida's
Scott said Tuesday he has no plans
to assuage those concerns. Asked if the issue was too partisan to leave to one
party to investigate, Scott replied: "It’s not a party. It’s the Department
of Law Enforcement. They’re the ones who are doing the investigation."
Less than a week after Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
raised rates by 10.8 percent and auto insurers failed to achieve the 10 percent
premium reductions required by the PIP reform law Scott championed, the
governor cut the “cost-of-living” component from his “three things” talking
Scott, who regularly mentions “three things people care
about,” today pared the talking point down to “two things”: Education and jobs.
Cost-of-living, a regular point of mention for Scott this year, was not
On Citizens, Scott took a different position from the
incoming Speaker of the Florida House, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.
Weatherford wrote a letter to Citizens’ board last week,
telling the state-run insurer to halt its new $350 million loan program, and
submit it to the Legislature for review.
Asked if he agreed with Weatherford’s statement that
Citizens ought to come before the board before enacting the program, Scott said
the board had the authority to decide on its own.
“I think the structure is is that there is a board, and this
is the purview of the board,” said Scott, who championed the increased
independence of Citizens’ board from the Legislature. “The board has the right
to make the decision.”
Members of Citizens’ board, meeting Tuesday, appeared to be
moving ahead with the plan to enact the program prior to next year’s
legislative session, despite Weatherford’s warning. They did agree to delay the
process and hire an outside consultant to conduct a thorough review of the $350
million loan before moving forward.
On a number of other issues, Scott opted against taking a
On amendment 5, which would require Senate approval of a
governor’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Scott said “I’ll leave it to the
voters to decide that.”
On the 10 other amendments, Scott said he would not make his
position known at this time. He said he might speak out on the amendments at a
On the Republican Party’s decision to weigh in on the merit
retention of Supreme Court judges, Scott said it’s up to the voters to decide
and his office did not coordinate with RPOF prior to its decision to get
“Lenny Curry runs the Republican Party of Florida,” he said,
deferring questions about the party to the chairman of the RPOF.
Scott did say he would “absolutely” be open to changing the
law to provide state funding for a prescription drug monitoring program that
could run out of money soon. He also expressed support for a new license plate
but said he had not yet heard about the $31 million estimated cost.
--Mike Van Sickler and