The Miami Herald had an interesting report over the summer on Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) – already a very wealthy man when he took office nearly eight years ago – and the fact that he’s seen his fortune grow considerably during his public service. The article quoted a Tallahassee attorney who is suing the governor for violating the state financial disclosure law saying, “It seems incredible that our governor made over $120 million and we really have no clue as to how.”
The Herald’s headline, referring to the Republican governor, asked, “How ‘blind’ is his blind trust?”
The answer has since come into sharper focus. The New York Times reported yesterday:
To shield himself from future conflict charges, Mr. Scott, who is now running to unseat the incumbent senator Bill Nelson, created a $73.8 million investment account that he called a blind trust. But an examination of Mr. Scott’s finances shows that his trust has been blind in name only. There have been numerous ways for him to have knowledge about his holdings: Among other things, he transferred many assets to his wife and neither “blinded” nor disclosed them. And their investments have included corporations, partnerships and funds that stood to benefit from his administration’s actions.
Only in late July, when compelled by ethics rules for Senate candidates, did Mr. Scott disclose his wife’s holdings. That report revealed that his wife, Ann Scott, an interior decorator by trade, controlled accounts that might exceed the value of her husband’s. Their equity investments largely mirrored each other, meaning that Mr. Scott could, if he wanted, track his own holdings by following his wife’s.
As a rule, for news like this to break, three weeks before Election Day, would be a disaster for a statewide candidate. After all, it now appears Rick Scott was far from truthful about his not-so-blind trust, and the governor invested in businesses that could profit from the governor’s governmental decisions, creating a textbook conflict of interest.
But Floridians have voted for Scott despite scandals before. As a first-time candidate eight years ago, Scott’s most notable accomplishment was running a business that was accused of defrauding the Medicare system – Scott personally pleaded the 5th during various legal proceedings 75 times – and Floridians narrowly elected him anyway.
Four years later, they did it again.
Public concerns about government ethics may be stronger now, and 2018 is less likely to be a Republican-friendly year than 2010 and 2014 were.
But Florida is Florida. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is probably a slight favorite, but no one should assume these new revelations will doom Scott’s Senate candidacy.