Members of several civil rights groups held a last-minute demonstration against Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) outside the $10,000-a-plate fundraiser that was mocked by comedian John Oliver earlier this week, New Times Broward Palm Beach reported.
Scott's appearance at the Boca Raton home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley was reportedly protested met by members of Florida For All, immigration rights group Dreamers Moms and the Dream Defenders.
"I think that Zoley is the CEO of a prison that is seemingly getting away with egregious practices speaks to people's sense of right and wrong," Florida For All spokesperson Ana Tinsly told New Times. "I think people are very upset to find that Rick Scott has such a cordial relationship with this CEO."
According to WPLG-TV, the dinner at Zoley's home was arranged after a Mother Jones report revealing that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida.
The fundraiser was also thrust into the national spotlight this past Sunday, when Oliver specifically mentioned the GEO Group's practices during a commentary on Last Week Tonight.
For example, he said, the staffing was so low at one facility in Mississippi that there were moments when only two guards were on duty to supervise as many as 256 prisoners, prompting a federal judge to observe that "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts" had been allowed to take place there.
"I know that GEO will say that presents an unbalanced picture of their company," Oliver observed at the time. "So in the interest of balance, I would point out that they got an award from the state of Florida citing their bold and innovative cost-saving practices. Although I think we all know, when the state of Florida gives you an award, that award is basically sarcastic.
New Times reported that Scott evaded a question about Zoley's business practices in a public appearance earlier in the day on Tuesday.
"He supports me because he believes in what we're doing," Scott told a member of the progressive super PAC American Bridge to the 21st Century. "He likes jobs creation; he likes the fact that I believe in the American dream. The fact that people like me can live the American dream, get a great education and a great job, build companies, and become governor of a great state."
Watch Scott's remarks, as posted online on Tuesday, below.