1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott taps assets in his blind trust to fund campaign

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott tapped assets in his blind trust and his wife matched the contributions to pump $12.8 million into his campaign, new state election reports show.

The report released late Friday by the Republican Party of Florida shows that two of the four checks that came from the Scott family to boost the governor's re-election efforts were drawn off Scott's "qualified blind trust" account.

The contributions came in two spurts. The first, a check of $5 million from the blind trust account and another for $5 million from Frances A. Scott were sent Oct. 6. Two more checks for $1.4 million each came from the same sources on Oct. 21. The total amount withdrawn from the blind trust: $6.4 million.

During the period of the first round of checks, the Times/Herald had asked the governor and his staff to explain questions about assets held in his blind trust that matched assets held by his wife's trust. Specifically, did the governor leave assets held by his wife for which he was the beneficiary off of his financial disclosure form.

The governor would only answer that he was following the law and that he did not control the assets he benefited from. Campaign spokesman Greg Blair said Scott "established the blind trust to protect the people of Florida from having an elected official make decisions in his or her own self-interest."

Blair on Saturday said that the governor's decision to liquidate assets from the blind trust to finance his campaign was not in violation of the spirit of the blind trust law.

"Having a blind trust does not mean you do not have access to your money," he told the Times/Herald. "The blind part is that you don't know how the money is invested. … Nothing prevents him from withdrawing money for any reason whether it's a political contribution or as simple as paying his bills."

Florida's blind trust law allows public officials to obtain distributions from a trust but the official may not specify which assets must be sold to obtain the cash. The law is silent about whether the public official may direct the assets to a political committee, and does not require him to report the distribution until the next financial disclosure period.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, sponsor of the blind trust law, said he is confident the governor operated "ethically and legally" when he used assets from the blind trust to help his campaign.

"I wrote the bill. I wrote the law. What he's done is perfectly within the law,'' Latvala said.

Latvala added that there may be a need to require disclosure when large amounts of blind trust assets are sold.

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at Follow @maryellenklas.