California environmentalist puts money behind anti-Gov. Rick Scott ads

Political committee linked with West coast tycoon Tom Steyer takes to TV to target climate-change skeptics

A political committee linked with California tycoon Tom Steyer unleashed its fifth television ad attacking Gov. Rick Scott this week. Steyer has pledged to spend plenty of green – $50 million in seven states, including $10 million in Florida – targeting climate-change skeptics like Scott.

When asked about global warming recently, Scott told reporters, “I’m not a scientist.”

Steyer and enviros are hoping to make global warming a wedge issue in the November elections, something that could give Democratic nominee Charlie Crist a boost.

One ad links the governor to Duke Energy Florida customers being forced to pay higher fees to underwrite a never-built nuclear power plant. The Republican Party of Florida countered with its own ad accusing Crist of signing the “nuclear cost recovery” law, but Jeb Bush was actually governor when the 2006 law went into effect.

The latest attack highlights stories by the Tampa Bay Times revealing a secret hunting trip Scott took last year to King Ranch in Texas. Scott later appointed Mitch Hutchcraft to a spot on the board overseeing the Everglades restoration project. Hutchcraft works for King Ranch, a major player in Florida’s citrus and sugar industries.

“What was Rick Scott really hunting for in Texas? Campaign cash from the sugar industry,” a voiceover says while a rifle targets – and blasts – a stack of money. “The same industry that got a massive bailout from Rick Scott, sticking taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up Big Sugar’s water pollution. Rick Scott: sweet deals for the powerful few – not you.”

Scott and supporters have taken nearly $750,000 in campaign contributions from Big Sugar, the ad proclaims. The ads are paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee Florida, which has thus far collected more than $1.8 million in contributions, almost exclusively from other committees affiliated with Steyer, a hedge-fund manager and philanthropist.

The spots don’t mention Crist, who, as Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, pushed policies aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. After taking office, Crist convened a two-day energy summit in Miami, attended by then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The event earned private rebukes from Republicans.

Crist himself was once the sweetheart of Big Sugar. As governor, he struck a deal with U.S. Sugar to pay $1.75 billion to purchase land considered critical to cleaning up the troubled ‘Glades. As the state’s economy tanked, so did the deal. In the end, the state purchased just 73,000 acres – a fraction of the original 187,000-acre plan – for about $500 million