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Politics

State business or campaigning? Democrats blast Scott for ad

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Published:   |   Updated: March 26, 2014 at 06:18 AM

TAMPA ญญ— Democrats are crying foul over a campaign ad by Gov. Rick Scott based on video of a Governor’s Office event held in Tampa last week, but Scott’s campaign denies there was any improper use of public resources for the ad.

That didn’t stop Scott’s likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, from ripping Scott on Tuesday for using the Governor’s Office for political purposes, and over new allegations by Scott’s former top campaign fundraiser of insensitivity to Hispanics by Scott campaign staff.

“He doesn’t own the Governor’s Office -- that’s an important point because he bought it,” Crist said of Scott during an appearance Tuesday afternoon at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, a popular stopping place for political candidates.

Campaign spokesman Kevin Cate added, “Apparently $100 million isn’t enough. Rick Scott is now staging official visits to shoot his campaign commercials” -- a reference to forecasts by Scott that he may spend up to $100 million on his re-election campaign.

The fuss was over a forum Scott held Friday for Medicare recipients at a Tampa retirement home in which he criticized President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act for cuts in planned spending increases for the Medicare Advantage program.

Crist supports the ACA, and the Tampa event followed release of a previous Scott campaign video and television ad blasting Crist over the issue.

Florida elections law expert Ron Meyer said it’s illegal to use government equipment or workers to produce campaign advertising, but it’s not illegal for a campaign staffer to shoot pictures at a public event to be used in campaign material.

“The harder question is whether the officeholder staged that event not for the public purpose, but for the purpose of having photos shot for a political campaign,” Meyer said. “Then I believe you’d be violating the law” -- but that would depend on proving that intention, he said.

Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair said the campaign sent a staffer to shoot video of the event after seeing it on the public schedule Scott publishes, and no Governor’s Office personnel or resources were used.

Scott’s campaign finance chairman, HMO billionaire Miguel Fernandez, resigned from the campaign last week, and emails published by the Miami Herald suggest he was concerned over insensitivity to Hispanics by Scott’s campaign team.

According to a Fernandez email the Herald published Tuesday, he complained that the campaign was “homogeneous” and didn’t understand or have any effective outreach to Hispanics.

He also complained that an associate had heard Scott staffers talking in mock Mexican accents before an event at a Mexican restaurant.

The Scott campaign has denied any such event occurred and said Fernandez quit to spend more time with his family and business.

Crist told reporters Tuesday, “There’s no place for discrimination in Florida or this country … if I were the head of the campaign on the other side, or Rick Scott, those people would have been fired already.”

“We’re one of the most diverse states in the country. If Rick Scott’s campaign is making jokes about how Hispanics talk, that’s unconscionable and they need to get to the bottom of it.”

wmarch@tampatrib.com

813-259-7761

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