Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Rick Scott won’t put his wealth in a blind trust anymore

Instead, Scott said he will report his assets to the public in annual financial disclosure forms required of all members of Congress.
Rick Scott kisses his wife Ann as he speaks to supporters at an election watch party, Nov. 7, 2018, in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

TAMPA — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will no longer keep his vast wealth in a blind trust, forgoing a method for publicly disclosing his personal finances that he used during his eight years as Florida’s governor.

Scott said Monday that instead he will report his assets to the public in annual financial disclosure forms required of all members of Congress.

“I’m not going to have a blind trust,” Scott said Monday during a Tampa visit. “What you do is just make the normal filings.”

He didn’t elaborate further. His Senate office didn’t provide more details, including when he made the decision and why he took this step.

Scott, the former head of a health care company before a scandalous exit, was the wealthiest governor in state history. His state financial disclosure report — filed late on a Friday evening last June — showed Scott had a net worth of more than $232 million at the end of 2017.

In 2011, Scott created a blind trust that he said would give Floridians confidence that his decisions were in the best interest of the state, not his bank account. In theory, a blind trust should prevent conflicts by taking the elected official’s investments out of his control.

RELATED: Gov. Rick Scott’s blind trust: Here’s what we know and what we don’t

Rick Scott reveals highest-ever family assets of at least $255 million

Revealed: Rick Scott’s financial link to botched SunPass contract

Government watchdogs and ethics experts, however, have repeatedly said over the years that this arrangement didn’t shield Scott from conducting public business while knowing what his investments were. For one, it was managed by a third party company that included Scott’s former personal adviser. Meanwhile, it didn’t include $173 million in investments held by his wife Ann Scott, many of which overlapped with the governor’s own assets in the blind trust, Politico reported last year.

Nor did Scott’s the blind trust eliminate questions about conflicts of interest. Last year, for example, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Scott had a financial interest in the company that operates Florida’s SunPass system.

During a heated and hard fought Senate campaign last year against Democrat Bill Nelson, Scott declined to say if he would continue the blind trust if he won.

Scott’s trust was not set up in a way to meet the Senate’s more rigorous requirements to shield an elected lawmaker’s assets. A qualified blind trust must be approved by the Senate Ethics Committee, and the trustee must be “completely independent” — meaning, not someone who used to work for the senator.

It’s unclear if Scott sought clearance or guidance from the ethics committee before making his decision. A committee spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Members of Congress are expected to recuse themselves or divest from investments that could benefit from their votes. Without a blind trust, it will be up to Scott to determine whether his duties are in conflict with his fortune — which includes tens of millions of dollars in holdings spanning many sectors of the economy.

“Clearly, that doesn’t work well,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a nonprofit that promotes good government. “We frequently see members of congress voting on legislation or promoting legislation that poses conflict of interests with their own properties. If a senator says, ‘I voted this way and it was not to enrich myself,’ you just have to believe them.”

Scott spokesman Chris Hartline called the Senate disclosure requirements “more stringent than the state of Florida.” Scott signed the 2013 bill establishing the disclosure rules for blind trusts in Florida.

In the Senate financial disclosure form, lawmakers only report wide income ranges for each holding, such as “$100,000 to $250,000.” One difference, however, is that Scott will be required to report the assets of his entire household annually, which he avoided for much of his time in Tallahassee.

Most members of Congress, even the super wealthy like Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., don’t put their holdings in a blind trust.

That could change if Democrats get their way. The new House majority has filed a package of campaign finance and ethics reforms known as H.R. 1. Among its many anti-corruption and voting access proposals — including making Election Day a national holiday, requiring the president and vice president to release their taxes and disclosing all dark money in elections — is a blanket ban on actions that would financially benefit lawmakers, their family and associates.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said H.R. 1 is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate where Scott is now a voting member.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.



ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  2. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
  3. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  4. Igor Fruman, hugs Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, as Lev Parnas looks on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. Fruman and Parnas were arrested last week on campaign finance violations. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Florida’s governor has shrugged off past donor controversies. This time, there were photos. Now it’s not going away.
  5. The sun sets over a slab which once served as a foundation for a home on Mexico Beach in May. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Area leaders fear lower population numbers will lead to reduced federal funding and political representation.
  6. Senador de Florida, Rick Scott.  Foto: AP
    “The FBI has failed to give me or these families an acceptable answer, but I’m not going to allow that,” Scott said, adding that the FBI didn’t share pertinent information on shootings at Pulse, the...
  7. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  8. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  9. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  10. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement