By Skyler Swisher | South Florida Sun Sentinel | May 31, 2019 | 6:06 PM
Florida governors have crisscrossed the globe from Tokyo to Paris in hopes of returning with high-paying jobs and foreign investment.
Sometimes, they found controversy instead.
Gov. Ron DeSantis finished his first international trade mission Friday, a four-day business development trip to Israel. A delegation of more than 100 people, including lobbyists, business leaders, academics and elected officials, joined him.
The governor helped broker research agreements, rubbed elbows with the Israeli business community and stirred up some controversy of his own.
His decision to hold a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem 6,000 miles away from Florida’s Capitol led to a lawsuit from open government advocates and criticism that he was giving more access to lobbyists in his trade delegation than the public who couldn’t attend. The administration responded by saying the meeting was only ceremonial.
He isn’t the only governor to hit bumps.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist’s 12-day trade mission to Europe racked up $430,000 in expenses in 2008 as the state’s economy faltered. Business executives paid for the governor’s part of the trip, but Crist faced political fallout when his $8,000 first-class airfare and $2,179-a-night suite near London’s Hyde Park were disclosed.
The tab even included $320 for his signature electric fans he used to keep himself cool when delivering speeches.Governor Crist and entourage traveled in style across Europe as businesses and taxpayers footed the bill »
Former Gov. Rick Scott became a punch line on Spanish television in 2012 when he acknowledged a literal elephant in the room at the time he met the country’s monarch — who was embroiled in a scandal involving an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana.
“I’ve ridden elephants. I’ve never tried to shoot one,” he quipped, bringing up a touchy subject for the king.
Invariably, the trips lead to questions over whether taxpayers are footing the bill for politicians to enjoy lavish, self-serving outings at their expense.
Trade mission highlights
- Gov. Ron DeSantis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- More than 10 meetings and events were held with Israeli business leaders.
- Roundtable discussions were held on school safety and the environment.
- More than 20 research agreements and other partnerships were signed.
- A Florida Cabinet meeting was held at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
- The governor signed a bill that aims to stop anti-Semitism in the state’s public schools