Sen. Rick Scott and his wife have a financial stake in the defense contractor that just a couple years ago employed President Donald Trump’s new defense secretary.
Scott voted with most of his colleagues Tuesday to confirm Trump’s nominee Mark Esper to the top Pentagon post.
Esper spent seven years as a vice president and lobbyist for Raytheon, one of the country’s largest defense contractors, before joining the Trump defense team as Secretary of the Army in 2017.
As of last year, Scott’s massive portfolio included holdings in Raytheon, according to the Florida Republican’s most recent financial disclosure. Scott said he earned between $15,000 and $50,000 from Raytheon in his annual report and he owned between $1,000 and $15,000 of the company’s corporate securities stock.
Meanwhile, his wife Ann Scott owned as much as an additional $50,000 in Raytheon stock and earned dividends and capitals gains of up to $100,000 on top of what Scott said he earned.
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Scott spokesman Chris Hartline said the Florida Republican did not consider abstaining from the vote, despite his financial position in Raytheon. Hartline said any suggestion Esper would help his former employer was “offensive.”
Esper’s time with Raytheon became a point of contention during his confirmation hearing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and top presidential contender, criticized Esper for refusing to recuse himself from decisions involving Raytheon while leading the Pentagon.
"You’re still due to get at least a million-dollar payout from when you lobbied for Raytheon. You won’t commit to recuse yourself,” Warren said during the hearing. “You insist on being free to seek a waiver that would let you make decisions affecting Raytheon’s bottom line and your remaining financial interest. And you won’t rule out taking a trip right back through the revolving door on your way out of government service.”
Esper responded that he was meeting all the ethical obligations required of him. Several Republicans, including Scott, jumped to the defense of the Trump nominee.
“I’m very disappointed that Sen. Warren would demonize you after your decades of service simply because you served in the private sector,” Scott said during his term at the mic. “I guess she just needed a moment for her presidential campaign.”
Esper, who fought in the first Gulf War and earned a Bronze Star, ultimately sailed through his confirmation hearing and faced little resistance in the full Senate. His nomination was approved on a 90-8 vote.
Scott’s financial stake in Raytheon is the latest example of the potential conflicts between his duties in the Senate and his vast wealth. Last year the Times/Herald reported that the Scotts had investments in companies that do business in Venezuela; as a senator, Scott is a frequent critic of the regime holding onto power in the South American country.
The Scott household also reported financial interests in another leading federal defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, and in an index fund that invests in aerospace and defense companies. Meanwhile, Scott sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon’s budget.
In all, the Scotts reported at least $255 million in assets last year, the first time the public had the opportunity to see the full scope of the couple’s fortune. As Florida governor, Scott didn’t disclose his wife’s holdings until he ran for the Senate, which requires candidates and senators to report their spouse’s finances.
Scott has yet to file his 2019 financial disclosures. In April he asked for and received an extension until Aug. 13.
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