When Rick Scott ran for Senate last year, he repeatedly claimed the lack of term limits on members of Congress contributed to the morass in Washington.
However, when it comes to limits on how long Congressmembers can use campaign funds after they leave office, Scott has remained mum.
Sen. Scott, now in his sixth month in DC, has not lent any support to a bipartisan House effort that would prevent former lawmakers from cashing in on leftover campaign funds long after they left office. The widespread abuse was first reported in the Tampa Bay Times/WTSP-TV “Zombie Campaign” investigation.
Scott’s Senate office has also failed to respond to three months of questions about the issue.
Similarly, Florida’s senior Sen. Marco Rubio has not responded to three months of questions about zombie campaigns, either.
The Times/WTSP investigation revealed hundreds of former politicians spending campaign funds long after the FEC’s recommended six-month wind-down window, some for decades after they left office. Their expenditures included high-end travel, posh restaurant spending, computers, and tickets to sporting events.
In some cases, campaigns of dead Congressmembers were still spending funds, apparently subsidizing the lives of former members’ families and political consultants.
Within months of the investigation’s launch last year, Florida Congressmembers Gus Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican, and Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, co-sponsored a bill to ban zombie campaigns. The bill also proposed to ban former members of Congress from using leftover campaign funds to lobby their former colleagues, a frequent occurrence.
While Scott’s campaign platform specifically mentioned a promise to “stop Congress members from cashing in as lobbyists,” he would not comment from the campaign trail on the bill that would prohibit those same politicians from cashing in on campaign contributions. Scott’s calls for term limits, however, remained a daily battle cry throughout 2018, as did his calls to eliminate “career politicians.”
Now in the Senate, Scott has continued to support term limits, lending his name to a long shot bill that would cap House tenures at six years and Senators’ at 12 years. That bill, however, would not address lawmakers’ abuse of campaign finance rules after their time in Congress was up.
The Democratically-controlled House included zombie campaign reforms in its 2019 H.R. 1 campaign finance and ethics reform bill, which was approved by the chamber in March. However, the wide-ranging bill also called for publicly-funded elections and other controversial reforms that Republicans indicated were non-starters.
Castor has speculated, with support in the Senate, a stand-alone zombie ban bill could gain passage from both chambers.
Most senators, including Rubio and Scott, have limited voting records on campaign finance issues; Senate President Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is a staunch opponent of campaign reforms, typically letting election bills die without a single hearing.
When Rubio ran for president in 2016, he spoke little of reforming the current system.