Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott responds to a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democrat Charlie Crist on Oct. 10, 2014, in Miramar, Fla.
Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP

Why Trump gave Florida a special deal on oil drilling

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/9/18, 9:05 PM ET

Zinke randomly grants offshore drilling exception to Florida

Rachel Maddow reports that after almost every governor of a coastal state raised objections to the Trump administration allowing oil companies to drill offshore, Secretary Zinke agreed to exempt Florida from the list after being asked by Rick Scott.
Last week, the Trump administration ignored all kinds of warnings and unveiled an expansive plan for coastal oil drilling. The move was quickly condemned by several key groups and officials, but it was the response from governors that stood out.

In all, 14 governors – including several Republicans – from states on both coasts denounced Donald Trump’s giveaway to the oil industry. Only one of the 14 is getting a special deal. NBC News reported:

The Trump administration said Tuesday it wouldn’t allow oil drilling off the coast of Florida, abruptly reversing course under pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said after a brief meeting with Scott at the Tallahassee airport that drilling would be “off the table” when it comes to waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida…. Zinke said Tuesday that “Florida is obviously unique” and that the decision to remove the state came after meetings and discussions with Scott.

Zinke, a former Republican congressman who’s faced a variety of controversies in recent months, added that the president believes “local voices count.” Asked why the administration endorsed drilling off Florida’s coast five days ago, but changed its mind yesterday, the cabinet secretary said “the governor” made the difference.

Rick Scott, not surprisingly, is delighted, not only by the policy shift, but also by the fact that he’s getting credit for doing something popular.

Which is largely what makes yesterday’s move so problematic.

I’ve seen some suggestions that Trump World decided to give Florida a break because it’s a red state that backed his candidacy in 2016, but if that were the case, the administration would’ve extended the same favor to South Carolina and North Carolina.

I’ve seen similar suggestions that Rick Scott received a special favor because he’s a Republican, but that’s not quite right, either: Maryland’s Larry Hogan, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, and Massachusetts’ Charles Baker are all Republicans; they all oppose Trump’s coastal drilling plan, and they’ve all been ignored.

The official explanation from Zinke – that Florida is “unique” because of its dependence on tourism – makes even less sense. Beaches in California, for example, are a pretty big deal to residents and tourists alike, though the administration doesn’t seem to care what Gov. Jerry Brown (D) thinks.

For that matter, if Zinke’s right and “local voices count,” he might want to explain why Trump World is ignoring 13 other governors.

The most likely explanation is that Trump and his team are orchestrating a not-so-subtle campaign scheme. The president has publicly pressed Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this year, and the White House wants to give the term-limited governor every possible advantage.

With this in mind, it’s very easy to believe Trump and his team gave Rick Scott what he asked for in order to make the governor look good, setting the stage for new campaign ads about how effective Scott was in “saving Florida’s coastline.”

If it looks to you like the administration is using federal policymaking as a campaign tool, you’re not alone. From where I sit, this is less an example of Rick Scott’s efficacy and more an example of Trump World abusing the levers of federal power.

Donald Trump, Florida, Oil and Rick Scott

Why Trump gave Florida a special deal on oil drilling

Updated