In 2019, Rick Scott rolled into Washington with stars in his eyes. For years, the handsomely wealthy healthcare mogul and former governor of Florida lived a relatively gilded existence. For starters, the guy surfed into the Tallahassee governor’s mansion in 2011 on the Tea Party wave despite running a hospital system that was slapped with a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. He remained a loyal boy scout for Donald Trump at all costs, encouraging his border wall fantasies, and then claimed his place in the Senate by labeling Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson as a socialist. Last year, he ran unopposed for the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a job no one really wants because of the required time, travel, and donor-hustling, but an opportunity that Scott nevertheless likely viewed as a prime flesh-squeezing role, where a canny operator could build both a robust big-money network and small-contribution fundraising operation. For this reason, among others, it’s a useful trampoline to vocations outside the upper chamber.
Scott entered town with a bang befitting his thinly-veiled ambitions. He threw himself his own veritable inaugural gala, the Sunshine Ball, a fundraiser for his political committee with tickets up to $100,000, in the middle of the government shutdown. Since taking on the N.R.S.C. chairmanship in 2020, he’s stared straight into the camera for ads that, rather peculiarly, sometimes don’t feature actual candidates. He’s also released his own G.O.P. agenda, an “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” that was widely panned by Republicans for suggesting higher taxes on even the poorest American families, and has since been used as ammo by Democrats.
When Scott first raised his hand to run the N.R.S.C., there was a lot of optimism. “This guy has a huge donor network and raises a shit ton of money, he can bring a new pedigree that we don’t currently have,” one G.O.P. lobbyist told me, characterizing the feelings around town. But it became clear fairly quickly that Scott did not recognize that the N.R.S.C. was always an extension of Mitch McConnell’s ex officio apparatus, and that McConnell expected to have a hand in it.