Not many governors have their own private jets. It's something Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) apparently takes full advantage of
, and not just for the sake of convenience at the airport.
By using his personal jet for public business, Florida Gov. Rick Scott can shield his itinerary from websites that track flights, and when his plane lands, he uses a public records exemption to tighten the cloak of secrecy. Wherever Scott goes, he is shadowed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. In citing a records exemption that protects FDLE "surveillance techniques" from publication, he withholds the members of his traveling party, restaurants and homes he visits, and people at meetings -- all in the name of security. To a much greater degree than the past three governors, Scott, former chief executive of the nation's largest private hospital chain, conceals information from the public about his travel.
Scott has struggled with transparency before. The Republican governor launched something called "Project Sunburst" a couple of years ago, vowing to put all executive-staff emails available online for public scrutiny. A year later, Scott's team had failed to meet
their commitments. The governor's daily schedule is also published online every morning, but it's routinely incomplete.
But this issue with his private jet seems considerably more serious.
Recent Florida governors from both parties would, just as a matter of course, disclose travel details, including instances in which a governor would have meetings on planes.
But recently, Scott hasn't even been willing to share how long a flight took to go from one airport to another.
Such details, the governor's office said, are kept private in the name of keeping Scott safe.
As the Miami Herald
suggested, it's a stretch.
Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a statewide watchdog group supported by Florida newspapers, said the exemption that Scott and FDLE are using should not apply to his travel schedule. "Clearly, the main purpose of the exemption is to protect surveillance techniques or procedures," Petersen said. "If you look at the definition of surveillance, I don't see how it would apply to the governor's schedule.... I think they're stretching the law in an unacceptable manner to reach the agency's desired result."
For his part, former Gov. Charlie Crist, now running against Scott, told the **Miami Herald, "He's literally flying under the radar, and he's supposed to be the most visible public official in the state."
That may not be ideal use of "literally," but the point otherwise has merit.