Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)
TALLAHASSEE _ When Gov. Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, the GOP establishment supported former Attorney General Bill McCollum.
So, when Scott, a former health care executive, spent nearly $40 million of his own wealth to beat McCollum in the Republican primary, fences needed to be mended between the rookie politician and the party he now led.
Enter Adam Hollingsworth.
At the time of the 2010 primary, Hollingsworth was making $189,000-per-year as chief of staff to then-Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. He took a leave of absence, recruited by both the Republican Party of Florida chairman and Scott campaign manager Susie Wiles, to help fix the relationship between Scott and the party’s elite.
Hollingsworth became one of Scott’s most trusted advisers, a position he used to influence the administration’s rejection of billions in federal high-speed rail money, then later lobby for a rail project that would benefit his employer, emails, text messages and administration documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau show.
Hollingsworth, through his office, declined to comment.
After the November 2010 election, Hollingsworth was brought on to serve as a transportation adviser to Scott’s transition team.
His role was not ceremonial. As adviser, Hollingsworth penned a draft letter informing federal administrators Florida was rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa.
“Please find attached a draft letter for the governor to send US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on high-speed rail,” Hollingsworth wrote in a Feb. 13, 2011, email to a handful of Scott advisers.
Hollingsworth’s letter included links to a study authored by the Libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation that found cost overruns could cost state taxpayers $3 billion, a number later cited by Scott.
After the state rejected the federal money, Hollingsworth became an executive at Parallel Infrastructure, a company owned by Florida East Coast Industries. That company also owns All Aboard Florida, now pushing a Miami to Orlando rail project.
Julie Edwards, All Aboard Florida’s chief marketing officer, said Hollingsworth working to reject the federal money didn’t help All Aboard Florida.