Only two days before the GOP gubernatorial primary, Rick Scott is being hammered by the very party he seeks to represent.
As if Scott’s spat with the Republican Governors Association weren’t enough, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) is jumping in the ring, too. John Thrasher, chairman of the RPOF wrote in an email to supporters Sunday night that Scott has “orchestrated a multifaceted campaign of misinformation in an effort to mislead Florida voters.”
Thrasher’s email hits Scott on two points. First, it takes Scott to task for running campaign ads linking primary rival Bill McCollum to disgraced RPOF ex-Chairman Jim Greer, who was recently indicted on six felony counts, including grand theft and money laundering.
“The ads placed in newspapers this weekend, television advertisements and the stream of mail sent to voters by Mr. Scott alleging that Attorney General Bill McCollum acted inappropriately throughout the investigation, arrest and indictment of Jim Greer are untrue,” Thrasher wrote. “Politifact has twice written that Mr. Scott’s attacks on this issue are false and that their continued use appears to be an attempt at diverting attention from Mr. Scott’s past legal issues.”
He also hit Scott over statements attacking party finances, including a press release the campaign released on Aug. 21, which reads, in part:
Today it was confirmed that Bill McCollum has been using the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) as his own personal piggy bank at the expense of Marco Rubio and down ballot candidates in the general election. The RPOF’s latest federal campaign finance account, which funds get-out-the vote efforts, voter registration drives and staff salaries has dwindled to less than $54,000 while Bill McCollum’s insider friends and Tallahassee powerbrokers at RPOF have funneled nearly $4 million dollars to Bill McCollum in a hotly contested primary, $750,000 of that coming just last week.
Thrasher wrote that the allegations are “naive statements that are completely void of fact.” He continued, “Mr. Scott’s false rhetoric about the state of the Party’s finances and our ability to support our candidates demonstrates a disturbing lack of understanding of federal and state election law.”
The sentiment was echoed by party spokesperson Katie Gordon, when reached for comment by Battle ‘10.
“What he is saying doesn’t even make sense. There’s no way that the party could have depleted its federal account supporting Bill McCollum, who’s a statewide candidate,” Gordon said. “The party cannot financially contribute to Marco Rubio as a federal candidate.”
Gordon called the statements, “outright lies,” but, like Thrasher, characterized Scott’s attack as a lack of understanding due to his decision to not participate in the RPOF’s Victory 2010 program, a fundraising and strategy partnership between the party and its candidates.
“Mr. Scott was able to participate in that program. He elected not to. He was the only statewide candidate that elected not to,” Gordon said. “He has no idea what the party’s financial situation is because he’s chosen not to be a part of it.”
Rick Scott Spokesman Joe Kildea told Battle ‘10 via email that Thrasher’s statement represents the status quo circling its wagons around one of its own.
“Just as Rick has said, the Tallahassee insiders have done their best to rig the Republican primary. They are threatened by a conservative outsider — someone who will shake up Tallahassee and put an end to the hold that special interests and power brokers have,” Kildea wrote. “Insiders are coming together in this primary, making up lies and using every tool at their disposal to elect one of their own so that they can preserve the status quo. This is what people hate about politicians and why Rick Scott, a businessman with a proven track record of creating jobs, who is beholden only to taxpayers, is going to be the Republican nominee. In regard to the Greer situation the facts speak for themselves and no matter what John Thrasher says the facts will remain the facts.”
In either case, the firebombs flying back and forth call into question the relationship between Scott and the party he seeks to represent in the general election.
“Really what the Scott campaign has done is take a page out of the Democrats’ playbook for his own benefit,” Gordon said. “The Democrats sent out, essentially, an identical press release to what Mr. Scott sent out yesterday.”
Because the campaign declined to participate in the Victory 2010 program, Gordon said that ongoing operational links between the RPOF and Scott are few, but that the party has supported Scott where it can — a sentiment which, “has not been reciprocated on his end.”
“On our end, the relationship is open. They have access to our voter file, we’re providing the grassroots resources they’ve requested, and in return for that we have these daily attacks,” Gordon said. “I don’t know why it would benefit a candidate to have this outright hostility towards the party.”
In an interview with Battle ‘10 on Aug. 19, Scott said that if he wins the bitterly fought primary battle, he foresees no problem building the GOP base back together to oppose Democrat Alex Sink.
“My opponent this fall believes in bigger government, is supporting Obamacare, is supporting President Obama and all of his initiatives to move the country in the wrong direction,” Scott said. “The Republican Party will rally around my principles of limited government, business background, fiscal responsibility – all these things.”
Scott reiterated when pressed on the rebuke issued by Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour.
“They’ll be very supportive,” Scott said.
Gordon said Thrasher and Scott have spoken about the Greer advertisements. Should Scott emerge the victor on Tuesday, it seems likely that additional patching-up will need to take place.
For the party’s sake, Gordon hopes so.
“Our whole purpose is to support Republican candidates,” Gordon said, adding that the RPOF continues to desire, “a working relationship between the party and the Scott campaign.”