When Gov. Rick Scott peered up at the House visitors' gallery in his State of the State speech last week, he saw his wife Ann, their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. Seated close by and joining in the applause was Mike Fernandez, a wealthy Cuban-American health care executive from Coral Gables and one of Scott's leading fund-raisers.
Fernandez has donated $1 million to Scott's campaign and serves as its co-finance chairman, and he has lucrative contracts under the state's Medicaid managed care program. In separate interviews, Scott and Fernandez said the contributions and contracts have no relation to each other.
"Whatever business Mike does with the state of Florida, he does on his own," Scott said. "He believes in what I'm doing. He believes in good government. If you listen to his story, he was escorted out of Cuba on a government plane ... He believes in the dream of America, which is what I believe in."
Of course, not everyone will believe that, and a $1 million check from Fernandez to Scott's Let's Get to Work committee won't end the talk. The mere size of the donation invites cynicism (all told, Fernandez has given $1.25 million to Let's Get to Work).