Visit Florida's spending wrapped in secrecy

Posted at 10:40 AM, Mar 28, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Taxpayers have paid thousands of dollars for Chinese and other foreign journalists to vacation in the Keys and unknown amounts of money on secret contracts for celebrities, race car drivers and soccer teams to promote the Sunshine State.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote that Visit Florida, a public-private group that will get $78 million in state money next year, says its spending is legal and crucial to its mission to boost tourism, which has helped set records each of the past five years, including more than 100 million visitors in 2015.

But the agency has little oversight from the state and has increasingly blocked its contracts from public scrutiny, the newspaper reports.

Visit Florida hasn't been subjected to the in-depth government audits that other state agencies undergo each year.