In another sign that Florida Gov. Rick Scott is moving to the populist middle, the govenor's aides told Florida House leaders Wednesday that he cannot support their plan to raise campaign contribution caps from $500 to $10,000 in exchange for more rigorous disclosure.
"What we’ve told the House is that when they do that they reduce the importance of the individual who can only write a $500 check so I think they ought to really look at that a lot more closely,'' Scott said Wednesday in an interview with the Herald/Times. "I want to see what they come back with but we’ve got to try to keep as many people involved in the process as we can.''
Scott, who spent more than $73 million of his own money to get elected, has collected dozens of five and six digit contributions through his political committee, Let's Get to Work. Three of the contributions in the last year were for $250,000 -- from Florida Power & Light, resort casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and AutoNation Founder Wayne Huizenga.
The House is moving a top priority bill of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, that would eliminate the political slush funds known as Committees of Continuous Existence, raise the campaign finance cap to $10,000 from the current $500 per campaign, and require accelerated disclosure of all campaign finance contributions.
Senate critics and ethics watchdogs warn that the bill will create new loopholes, allowing political parties to control big checks with little accountability, concentrate power in the hands of incumbents, and make the system less democratic.
Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala has proposed a plan that would also get rid of CCEs but raise campaign contribution limits based on a tiered scale: up to $3,000 for statewide offices and Supreme Court merit retention races, $2,000 for appelate judges merit retention races and leave it at $500 for legislators and countywide offices.
Scott said he believes that raising contribution limits will suppress involvement in the process.
"The right thing is how do we get more people involved, not less,'' he said. "Don’t dilute the importance of any individual."
Former Gov. Bob Graham, who attended Scott's State of the State speech on Tuesday, said he also opposed the increased campaign limits.
“I think we ought to be looking for ways to reduce the influence of money in politics,’’ he said. “Increasing from our current level to $10,000 seems to be going in the wrong direction.”