Friday, November 16, 2018
Columns

Scott investments are hardly blind

Really now, is there any conflict of interest that Gov. Rick “Sticky Fingers” Scott isn’t willing to accept in the ethics-challenged trough that is Tallahassee?

Since the state’s official hologram entered the Governor’s Mansion nearly eight years ago, Scott has essentially treated the office as his personal ATM.

The Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau’s Steve Bousquet has reported Scott and his wife, Ann, have invested at least $5 million in a hedge fund called Highline Capital Management.

And as fate would have it, Highline holds a $127 million stake in Conduent Inc., which further fate would have it is the parent company of SunPass, the very vendor that collects tolls on the state’s highways.

And no, you’re not a bit surprised, are you?

In theory at least, the mega-wealthy Scott put his financial assets in a blind trust during his time haunting the capital. But the governor has never been very big on theories, apparently regarding all this piffle about building a wall between his money and his prying eyes with the same indifference as he regards silly theories like the hoax of climate change.

Indeed, Bousquet noted Scott attended a Dallas fundraiser months ago that included Darwin Deason, major shareholder of Conduent, as a host. No doubt the two men only chatted about the Dallas Cowboys.

Conduent is hardly the first conflict of interest in Scott’s investment holdings. Once a fierce opponent of a proposed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, the governor underwent an epiphany. He now loves the idea of an I-4 corridor choo-choo, especially since the project would be built by a company called Brightline, previously known as All Aboard Florida.

It is probably only a matter of a Kismet-like coincidence that Scott and his wife Ann also happen to have invested $3 million in a credit fund whose parent company also owns .... Oh go on, take a wild and crazy and zany guess.

You got it - Brightline! You are so smart.

Since he embarked on a second career as an elected Tallahassee hustler, Scott’s so-called blind trust has evolved into a sort of Peek-A-Boo trust.

Until Scott decided to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the governor was only subjected to state financial disclosure statements, which tend to be more vague than for what passes between the ears of “Blazing Saddles’” Mongo.

The financial disclosure forms required of a U.S. Senate candidate are more detailed. And thus that is the only way the public has gained a better glimpse into Rick and Ann Scott’s financial holdings.

And what has emerged from those federal filings is an uncanny pattern showing investments by Scott family members which closely mirror the very same investments being made in health care, rail, a natural gas pipeline, prescription drug manufacturers, mosquito control and oil services companies by the governor’s blind trust the governor is supposed to know nothing about.

Who knows? Maybe Scott’s extended family all read the same copy of Fortune Magazine every day. Or perhaps not.

It is certainly arguable the managers of the blind trust would have - or should have - exercised due diligence to insure that any investments made by the blind trust would not in any way suggest any remote conflict of interest between the trust’s assets and entities doing business with the state on Scott’s watch.

Scott came into office already stained by his history of running Columbia HCA, which paid a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Part of his personal wealth came from the millions Scott received from the for-profit hospital company to just please, please, please go away.

The governorship offered Scott the opportunity to rehabilitate his image as an honest steward overseeing the state’s affairs.

Instead, we’ve learned it is awfully hard to teach new scruples.

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