Sunday, June 17, 2018
Politics

Back-and-forth slugfest between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist intensifies

In Florida's bareknuckle governor's race, it's as if the 2010 campaign season never ended.

The Florida Democratic Party on Thursday announced a digital media effort to highlight a sealed deposition that damaged Rick Scott on the campaign trail four years ago.

At the same time, the Republican Party of Florida took to Twitter and mockingly marked Charlie Crist's 58th birthday by featuring a photo of the Democrat blowing out birthday candles with convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein — a relationship that haunted the then-governor in his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate bid.

The state GOP also filed elections complaints Thursday that accused Crist of using the recent tour promoting his book — which revolves around his 2010 race — to help circumvent campaign-finance laws. Earlier this week, a batch of election-year complaints against Crist and Scott were rejected as baseless.

The back-and-forth slugfest, which has led to $22 million in TV ads so far and a neck-and-neck race, promises only to intensify as each side tries to make the other guy look like a secretive crook.

Democrats said they'll reinforce the narrative with the launch of a new anti-Scott website, releasethedeposition.com. A video, featured on the website, would play as commercials on YouTube.

"What is so damning that Rick Scott won't release it, no matter what the price?" the Democrats' party chairwoman, Allison Tant, said in a conference call with reporters about Scott's deposition.

Scott, who refused to release the deposition in 2010 because it was a "private matter," said he won't change his mind.

"I'm not going to do anything else, release any more information. It just gives Charlie Crist more opportunity to mudsling," Scott said Thursday in Clearwater after talking about high job growth and educational improvements on his watch.

Scott gave the testimony in a lawsuit just six days before first running for governor. Soon after, the document was sealed and the lawsuit was settled against Scott's health care company, Solantic, which was accused by a doctor of unlawfully using his name in a regulatory matter.

The Democratic attack has a one-two-punch against Scott because it leads to mention of: his former health care company, Columbia/HCA, which had paid a record Medicare fraud; and how Scott once pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times (due to pending criminal investigations) in yet another deposition in a later health care lawsuit.

Scott's refusal to release the Solantic deposition badly hurt him in the 2010 GOP Republican primary, where internal campaign tracking polls showed his lead over then-Attorney General Bill McCollum dropped precipitously in the wake of the controversy.

McCollum allies funded TV ads about the issue. They also paid two young men — one dressed in hospital scrubs called "Dr. Dave" and another one dressed in a black-and-white-striped jail outfit named "Inmate 2010" — to follow Scott around in an SUV wrapped with a grainy image of Scott's face and the message "Rick Scott: Release the Deposition."

Scott won that race and went on to beat Democrat Alex Sink, who also put millions of dollars behind release-the-deposition TV ads. Scott barely won in what was then a Republican-red year. He received fewer votes than any of the other four Republicans on the statewide ballot.

Crist, however, fared even worse in 2010.

Among the troubles weighing on Crist was his Senate campaign's support by top contributor Scott Rothstein, who later admitted to masterminding a Ponzi scheme out of his Fort Lauderdale law firm.

Rothstein in 2009 contributed $52,000 to the state GOP to sponsor a birthday party cake for Crist. The cake was festooned with candles, each bearing the name of major special interests doing business with the state that had paid $5,200 for the privilege of a mention.

Rothstein, tapped by Crist to sit on a judge-picking panel, had said he essentially bought judgeships from Crist, which Crist denies as the lies of a felon and serial deceiver.

"Thanks for the judgeships! When I get out of jail I'll buy you another birthday cake!" a mock Twitter message Thursday from a phony Rothstein account said. The tweet, along with a snapshot of other sarcastic messages from a phony Fidel Castro account, was photographed and disseminated on Twitter by Juston Johnson, the state GOP's executive director.

Meantime, Scott has tried to blunt the Democratic attacks against him for his secrecy by calling on Crist to release his wife's tax filings. Crist won't, saying they're Carole Crist's private business.

As governor, Scott refused to disclose his and his wife's tax documents and individual details of all their investments. He reversed course this campaign season, but has yet to release his 2013 tax forms, which Crist has disclosed.

Tant refused to say whether Crist should disclose Mrs. Crist's tax information.

"This is something you can ask Mr. Crist about," she said.

Tant also denied that the Democrats' newest push against Scott was an effort to anticipate a lawsuit, announced this week by the Scott administration, to recoup $20 million in lost tax-incentive money approved in 2009 when Crist was governor for a now-bankrupt firm known as Digital Domain Florida.

Crist allies, noting the suit is being pursued by Scott donor William R. Scherer, suspect it was filed this campaign season in an effort to embarrass Crist and put Crist under — drumroll — deposition.

Times staff writer Keyonna Summers contributed to this report.

Comments
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA ó June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes donít seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

SINGAPORE - President Donald Trump arrived here Sunday night ahead of a potentially historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first meeting between the leaders of two countries that have been sworn enemies for almost seven decades.Air...
Published: 06/11/18
Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the presidentís daughter and son-in-law, brought in at least $82 millionvin outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to new financial disclosure forms released Monday.Ivanka Tr...
Published: 06/11/18