This afternoon, Rick Scott was sworn in as the 45th governor of Florida. Scott, the former head of scandal-plagued Columbia/HCA hospital operation, is worth around $219 million and frequently said during the campaign that the $73 million in personal funds he spent to be elected meant he was simply a “businessman with no ties to special interests.”
The two-day inaugural bash this week tells quite a different story, however. The ceremonies cost about $3 million, and are largely funded by business interests in Florida that, as the St. Petersburg Times writes, have “the most at stake in his administration.” From tobacco companies trying to avoid taxes, to drug companies and HMOs hoping to benefit from Medicaid changes, Scott’s lavish ceremony is being paid for by those who want to be a part of the real party: Florida is the world’s twentieth-largest economy and Scott will enjoy almost unchecked control of the state’s business, as his party holds super-majorities in both legislative chambers.
Here’s a glimpse at Scott’s inaugural supporters, and what they are likely after:
– Dosal is a tobacco company that was exempted from a massive settlement with the state in 1997, and has been avoiding paying the settlement fees ever since — which by some estimates add up to $200 million per year — allowing it to become the state’s third-largest seller in Florida. The company has been lobbying fiercely for a decade to remain exempt from paying settlement fees, and donated $10,000 to Scott’s inauguration. Phillip Morris, which would like to see the settlement fees imposed on a competitor, also donated.
– “Companies that want to influence the debate on Medicaid reform — from drug companies to HMO chains — were the largest donors, giving more than $800,000, according to initial estimates.”
– “Real estate developers and investors, eager for fewer regulations and no growth management hurdles, contributed more than $275,000.”
– “Gambling interests — from the Seminole Tribe of Florida to the Las Vegas Sands, who are at opposite ends of a debate over expanding casino gambling in Florida — ponied up a total of $150,000.”
– “Florida Crystals, the sugar giant and agribusiness concern that wants to have a piece of the state’s alternative energy pie, had four of its affiliates donate a total of $100,000 to the inaugural cause.” As ThinkProgress has previously reported, the sugar industry in Florida frequently influences the political process, including efforts to have soda pop bans halted.
– “Florida’s utility giants also contributed heavily to the inaugural events. They want Scott to back their pro-nuclear power initiatives or, in the case of Florida Power & Light, their push for solar development.”
A Scott spokeswoman claimed that donors “should expect a series of events intended to honor the people of this state in this period of a change in leadership in our state, and nothing more than that.” However, as the St. Petersburg Times reports, “many of the donors were included in four invitation-only inaugural events,” including “an evening candlelight dinner honoring about 120 ‘Friends of the Inauguration.’”
Given Scott’s fervent pro-corporate dogma — he said today in his inauguration speech that “prosperity comes from the private sector [and] ONLY from the private sector” — it’s not unreasonable to think these large business interests expect to be rewarded. Notably, Scott’s “jobs tour” last month, in which he claimed simply that “[w]e like business people and we’re going to grow this state,” was paid for by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
At a prayer breakfast this morning, born-again Christian Chuck Colson lamented that “America has lost its way to self-indulgency, greed and materialism,” according to the Miami Herald. The answer, he said, is a renewal of the sense of shared sacrifice and civic duty. “We’ve got a sick culture…. We don’t want to make any sacrifices for the common good.” This sentiment does not seem to square with Scott’s already demonstrable deference to large corporations and business interests.