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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Things are getting nasty in one of Florida’s senate races.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, caught in an escalating and expensive re-election battle, railed at Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, contending that he doesn’t believe Scott is telling the truth about his investments, or the investments of first lady Ann Scott.
Scott, a multi-millionaire businessman who once led a major health care company that was investigated for Medicare fraud, has maintained that the bulk of his wealth is maintained independently in a blind trust.
But the Republican governor was required to turn last month to submit a detailed financial disclosure to the U.S. Senate that showed that his family is much richer than Scott has been reporting to state authorities. That disclosure also revealed for the first time the holdings of Ann Scott. The new filings also showed that both Scott and his wife have invested in companies that are affected by decisions made by state government.
A series of news reports in the last few weeks have raised questions about Scott’s investments, including that his wife loaned money to an employee of the firm managing Scott’s blind trust. Scott and his wife have holdings in a company linked to the state’s largest electric utility and they once held stock and invested in a mutual fund controlled by a major financial company that does business with the state’s pension fund.
“You’re finding out what his real record was, that he hid behind this ‘so-called’ blind trust,” said Nelson after a visit to a Tallahassee veterans’ health clinic.
When asked if he believes Scott’s assertion that he is not involved he said: “Of course not.”
Nelson then added: “It’s already been shown that his wife knows. Well, you know he knows what his wife has…I mean, c’mon.”
During his three runs for office, Scott has used his wealth to help bankroll his campaigns. Scott in late June reported to state officials that his own net worth was more than $232 million. While the Senate report he turned in in July does not require exact amounts, it lists that there are at least $170 million worth of assets held by Ann Scott.
Scott, who does not accept a salary and uses a family jet to travel, first built his fortune as the head of the hospital giant Columbia/HCA. He was forced out of the job amid a federal investigation into fraud. Although Scott was never charged with any wrongdoing, the company paid a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.
During his first run in 2010, Scott released his tax returns and a lengthy list of business holdings. Shortly after he took office, he received permission from the state ethics commission to set up a blind trust to remove direct control over his finances in an effort to avoid possible conflicts. But the trust is managed by a company that includes a longtime business associate of Scott.
Scott and his campaign have maintained that he has no knowledge of what investments are done on behalf of the trust.
“The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed,” according to a statement from Scott’s Senate campaign. “The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the governor, and those requirements have always been followed.
Politico Florida reported this week that Ann Scott gave a loan worth between $100,000 and $250,000 to Cathy Gellatley, who worked for more than a decade at Richard L. Scott Investments, LLC, the governor’s Naples-based investment firm, and is now an accountant at Hollow Brook Wealth Management. The New York-based investment management firm employs the trustee who oversees Scott’s trust.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)