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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott's blind trust includes investment in Playboy-affiliated social networking company

9

August

From our friends at AP:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday turned over additional details on his personal fortune in order to make sure he is complying with a new state law.

The multi-millionaire governor turned in to the state's ethics commission a list of nearly $74 million assets he placed in a blind trust more than two years ago.

It shows, for example, Scott transferred into the trust $1.42 million in shares he owned in a social networking company that came under fire from some conservatives because it had partnered with Playboy magazine in Mexico.

Scott established the trust to remove direct control over his finances and avoid questions of conflicts of interest. But when he set it up, he was not required to disclose what his money was invested in. A new sweeping ethics law passed this year by the Florida Legislature says that public officials who set up blind trusts now must disclose the initial assets placed in the account.

Scott is not bound by the new law since the Florida Commission on Ethics had previously approved his blind trust. But Scott's general counsel said the governor is turning over the information now in "abundance of caution."

Scott is also requesting the commission to confirm that he is compliance with the new law. But the filing makes it clear that there are no plans to divulge what assets are held by the trust currently and whether there have been any changes in the last two years.

The trust is managed by a New York firm that includes two of his former business associates. Pete Antonacci, Scott's general counsel, said that disclosing the current assets would defeat the purpose of making sure that Scott is unaware of how the money is being invested.

Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, a group that has called for greater disclosure by public officials in the state, praised Scott for handing over the information.

"Gov. Scott has taken the appropriate action to ensure his blind trust complies with the new ethics law," Krassner said in an email. "More transparency and accountability about the governor's blind trust assets is in the public's best interest."

Scott, who had never run for public office before, is far wealthier than previous governors — including Jeb Bush, who had been a successful businessman before entering politics. Scott is refusing his $130,000 salary, as his trust paid him $3.1 million last year. He uses his family's personal jet to fly around the state, saving taxpayers the expense.

He reported a net worth of $218 million right before he mounted his campaign in which he spent $70 million of his own money to get elected. Scott reported a net worth of $103 million as he took office, while the filing he turned in earlier this summer showed that his net worth was nearly $84 million as of the end of 2012.

The filing he turned in Friday shows that the blind trust has declined in value by roughly $1 million between April 2011 and the end of last year.

Scott's annual financial disclosures also don't include anything about the assets owned by his wife of 41 years, who contributed nearly $13 million out of her trust account to help her husband get elected. Ann Scott was running an interior design company when her husband was elected, but tax returns show it wasn't making any money.

Right before he was sworn into office, Scott transferred to his wife shares in Solantic, a chain of urgent care clinics he started. Those shares were later sold to a New York investment firm after the governor was criticized for potential conflicts of interest.

[Last modified: Friday, August 9, 2013 8:06pm]

    

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