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)
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. Kerry Kriseman, right, beside husband Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kerry Kriseman announced Friday she has cancer. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
    Kerry Kriseman announced the news Friday on Facebook. She said the prognosis is good.
  2. The walkable waterfront hamlet of Apalachicola, founded in 1831 on Apalachicola Bay, is shrouded in overcast on Tuesday. The town is home to oyster boats and shrimp boats which make their daily pilgrimages into the seafood-rich bay. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    Florida filed the lawsuit against Georgia in 2013, though battles about water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system date to the 1990s.
  3. At the request of a state lawmaker, Citizens Property Insurance Co.’s board is again bringing in an outside evaluator to help the insurer decide if and how to cull its policyholder base. Pictured is  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) (left) and Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens. [Courtesy of Sen. Jeff Brandes and Citizens Property Insurance Co.]
    At the request of St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, the insurer will look for ways to shrink.
  4. Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
    An audit spells out how short-term savings, realized between 2011 and 2014, are now costing taxpayers millions and leading to settlements from successful class-action lawsuits on behalf of inmates.
  5. Yuma, the Florida panther cub, explores his new enclosure at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in 2014. The young panther will live out his days at the park after being rescued in January 2014 from the wild near Naples at about one-week of age. He had been abandoned. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park had a ceremony Thursday morning with a couple speeches explaining Yuma's circumstances which were followed by a brief countdown for the opening of a gate allowing Yuma to enter his new enclosure. [DAMASKE, JIM   |  Tampa Bay Times]
    It would “basically be a disaster for the panther,” a federal biologist wrote in assessment.
  6. A trial court ruling barring two women from entering an Orlando strip club without a man has caused a constitutional chain reaction. Miami Beach argues that local human rights ordinances are under attack, and the city is leading an effort to overturn the ruling. [STEVEN JOHNSON | Miami Herald]
    On Thursday, Miami Beach led a coalition of 21 municipalities, including Tampa, Pinellas County and Dunedin, in filing a brief urging the overturn of a May decision voiding local protections of civil...
  7. This Feb. 19 photo shows a makeshift memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland. [AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File]
    The grand jury said districts are creating “unnecessary chaos” and have become “experts at data manipulation.”
  8. Council member Ed Montanari, left, was elected St. Petersburg City Council chair for 2020. Council member Gina Driscoll was voted vice-chair. [Times (2019)]
    The chairman guides the council through meetings and generally speak last on issues.
  9. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) [ALEX BRANDON  |  AP]
    Gaetz declined a breathalyzer test, but the charges were dropped anyway.
  10. Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, presents his bill on civics education to the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Dec. 11, 2019. The legislation received unanimous bipartisan support. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘Democracy is not a spectator sport,’ sponsor Rep. Ben Diamond reminds colleagues.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement