Florida Gov. Rick Scott has received nearly $1 million in campaign donations from donors tied to the fossil fuel industry, reinforcing the Republican senate candidate’s ties to energy executives and employees.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday that Scott has received at least $880,000 in donations to his senate campaign from donors connected to the oil, gas, and energy industry, information that is reflected in his midyear campaign report. The donations have gone to both Scott’s campaign and to pro-Scott super PACs.
Prominent donors include Karen Buchwald Wright, who gave the pro-Scott New Republican PAC $250,000. Wright is the chief executive of natural gas compressor maker Ariel. CEO Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners — the company backing the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana — donated $50,000 to the same PAC. Max Alvarez, president of Florida-based Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, also kicked in $25,000 to the governor’s re-election efforts.
Energy giants contributing to Scott’s campaign include Murray Energy PAC and Chevron Employees PAC. Additional donors include Consumer Energy Solutions and Complete Drilling Solutions, as well as several others.
In a statement, Scott spokesperson Lauren Schenone downplayed the candidate’s ties to fossil fuel companies and touted his environmental efforts.
Schenone argued that Scott opponent Bill Nelson, a Florida Democratic senator, has similarly taken money from the fossil fuel industry. She also pointed to Scott’s seemingly effective efforts to lobby the Trump administration in January to exempt Florida from offshore drilling efforts.
“Anyone who contributes to Gov. Scott’s campaign does so in support of his candidacy, which includes priorities such as protecting Florida’s natural treasures by keeping drilling away from our coastline,” she said. “It was Gov. Scott who worked to have Florida taken off the table for oil drilling.”
However, Scott has a history of flip-flopping on off-shore drilling, campaigning on the issue in 2010, only to oppose expansion in 2018. The issue is wildly unpopular in Florida and Scott worked closely with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to have the Sunshine State removed from off-shore drilling consideration. Legal experts have questioned the ultimate decision to have the state prioritized for removal over others and many have speculated that partisan politics likely played an outsized role in that move.
Scott’s deep ties to the fossil fuel industry have been well-documented over the years as well. In 2014, the Miami Herald noted that Scott had heavily invested in more than two dozen oil and gas ventures as of Dec. 31, 2013. Months later, he announced a $50 million General Electric (GE) Oil & Gas manufacturing facility in Jacksonville. The Herald noted that another division of General Electric, GE Energy Financial Services, had invested significantly in fossil fuel partnerships tied to Scott.
The governor also has a lengthy record of inaction on environmental issues more broadly, something that has long irked activists. As a coastal state threatened by sea level rise and increasingly deadly storms, Florida is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Rather than address those issues, advocates note that Scott has repeatedly reigned in renewable energy efforts and once reportedly barred officials from using the term “climate change.”
In April, young Floridians launched a lawsuit to force the governor to take action on climate change. A group of eight children age 20 or younger filed the suit in collaboration with Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. In the legal challenge, the suit cites Scott’s “deliberate indifference” towards young people set to suffer from the ramifications of climate change.