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According to Hudson, just about every U.S. Senator and Representative from Florida has visited the house. Last month, Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R) and GOP Reps.-elect Steve Southerland, Daniel Webster, David Rivera and Sandy Adams, along with longtime GOP Reps. Jeff Miller, John Mica and Adam Putnam, dropped by the house for the Florida Seafood Celebration. Hudson said the campaign was intended to “support the industry that was so badly maligned” and highlight the recovering seafood market after the BP oil spill.
In 2004, the organization raised $1 million for Florida victims of Hurricane Ivan.
The house is also used for fancy cocktail parties and networking gatherings. It hosts weekly seminars during the summer for more than 100 interns working for the Florida Congressional delegation. They talk one-on-one with home-state Members about public policy in a spacious room on the second floor.
Florida House also invites all the contenders of the Cherry Blossom Festival Princess Pageant to the House for parties, and Hudson said it’s not uncommon for wedding celebrations to commence at Florida House.
With all the glamour and utility of Florida House, which welcomes about 10,000 visitors annually, some may wonder why other states haven’t opened their own embassies. After all, Chiles had envisioned a street of state embassies to join her organization when she opened Florida House.
But given the cost of Capitol Hill real estate, other embassy startups seem unlikely.
“We’re the only state to have such a facility,” Hudson said. “Other states have tried to open embassies, including California, Texas and Illinois, but they tried to do it out of state tax revenue.”
Hudson said he thinks it’s hard to justify spending taxpayer money on fancy state embassies in Washington in tough economic times. But Florida House is funded through individual donations, mostly small $25 gifts, and through its 90 board members — all Floridians — who pay at least $2,000 a person annually and raise additional money for the organization, he said.