The state Republican Party and Gov. Rick Scott are stonewalling on questions about why the party sent staffers to videotape and photograph the license plate numbers of people attending a fundraiser in Tallahassee for Gov. Rick Scott’s Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Scott and a party spokeswoman both refused to answer questions about the incident today.
The incident, as reported by the Associated Press, occurred at the home of state Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant Tuesday night.
As some 200 donors arrived at Tant’s home in an upscale, secluded neighborhood of Tallahassee, they were met outside the home by GOP staffers, some wearing prison uniforms, who videotaped arriving guests and photographed license plates.
“It was some sort of silly attempt to intimidate,” Tant told the AP. “Taking pictures of license plates — that’s ridiculous. If they want to know who was at my party, they can look at the financial report and they can look at my Facebook page.”
Asked his reaction to the incident by a reporter today while campaigning in Orlando, Scott instead talked about “trackers” for the Crist campaign.
The term refers to individuals hired by both parties and many campaigns to attend public events held by an opposing candidate and record the speeches, usually looking for gaffes or flubs that can be criticized.
“Charlie has two trackers, I know both of them, Ed and Danny, they come to our events,” Scott said. “He probably needs his own tracker just to keep track of what he says every time because his position keeps changing.”
Asked whether he considered videotaping event attendees and photographing the license plates to be acceptable, he said, “I don’t know what they do with those. I’ve don’t go to Charlie Crist fundraisers.”
He added, “I’ve had a tracker on me for probably two years. They come to our events and they film me all the time.”
In an interview, party spokeswoman Susan Hepworth acknowledged the demonstrators and photographers were state GOP employees, but when asked the purpose of the tactic, she wouldn’t give a direct answer,
“That’s what trackers do,” she instead responded. “Did anyone actually say they were intimidated?”
But that’s not, in fact, what trackers do. They don’t normally pay attention to attendees at the events -- in fact, they usually try to remain inconspicuous and avoid interaction with the press or supporters.
It’s also become common for parties and candidates in hard-fought races to have demonstrations at opposing candidates’ or parties’ events, but those normally are held in public places, seeking publicity or public notice -- not in a secluded neighborhood like Tant’s.
When pressed on why the Republican Party wanted videos or license plate numbers of the attendees, Hepworth said Crist “wants to keep his fundraisers private -- he fundraises with convicted felons like Rothstein and Greer.” That’s a reference to former state Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, who served time for defrauding the party, and Scott Rothstein, a former South Florida lawyer and heavyweight Republican donor who gave to Crist when Crist was a Republican.
But she still declined to say why the GOP wanted the pictures or video.