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In disclosure Q and A, Scott campaign provides its own questions, then avoids some answers

Rick Scott 2015 APHere is the Q and A provided by the Scott campaign as part of the governor's financial disclosure. Note that even some of their own questions didn't get answers.

Our updates and context are in blue italics:

"TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Scott for Florida campaign released Governor Rick Scott’s annual financial disclosure report, as required by federal law for U.S. Senate candidates. Following the Governor signing the federal financial disclosure report, his assets were immediately placed back into a blind trust. The use of a blind trust avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest for an elected official, protects the people of Florida from an elected official making decisions based on personal finances, and is recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics."

Update: Scott's campaign staff clarified that the governor has not decided whether or not to continue the use of a blind trust if he were to be elected to the U.S. Senate. 

"A blind trust has been used by Florida elected officials such as Jeb Bush and Alex Sink, and even now, a majority of the democratic primary candidates for governor have committed to using a blind trust. Blind trusts are also used by governors in other states, both republicans and democrats. The Governor’s blind trust has also been upheld multiple times by the State Commission on Ethics and the court system."

Scott is being sued for violating the blind trust statutes by shifting assets for shifting millions of assets into his wife's name and retaining control as the beneficial owner. A motion to dismiss the case has been rejected by the circuit court and is now on appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeal. 

"Governor Scott has worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott’s Federal Disclosure Report 

CLICK HERE for Governor Scott's Notice to the Florida Commission on Ethics of his Blind Trust 

Please see the below FAQ and timeline for more information:

Q: What is Governor Rick Scott’s net worth?

That information is thoroughly provided in the financial disclosure.

No, it is not thoroughly provided. The governor has provided his liabilities but his assets are not clear because it is unknown how many assets held in the name of his wife, Ann, are also controlled by Scott. SEC documents show Scott has been the beneficial owner of many of the assets held in Ann Scott's name. Scott's worth may include the millions held by his wife, but the value of Ann Scott's assets are listed only as a range, with as many as 150 investments listed as "over $1 million." 

"Governor Scott grew up in a family that struggled financially. After attending high school and community college, Governor Scott enlisted in the United States Navy, then used the GI Bill to continue his education and ultimately open his first small business. He and his wife Ann, his high school sweetheart, have been able to live the American Dream thanks to the opportunities they had in this country, and now, Governor Scott is working to make sure every child in Florida will have these same opportunities. 

"Governor Scott has also worked tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars by selling the state plane, which has saved the state $2.4 million each year since 2011, and declining to take a salary throughout his time as governor. When elected to the U.S. Senate, Governor Scott will continue to decline a salary and will instead propose that all members of Congress have their taxpayer-funded salaries halted if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bills on time."

Q: Why has Governor Scott’s net worth increased over his years as governor?

When Governor Scott was elected, he put all of his assets in a blind trust, which is managed by an independent third party to shield his investments from his direct control and to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. As such, the Governor has no control of what is bought or sold in the blind trust.

A blind trust has been used by Florida elected officials such as Jeb Bush and Alex Sink, and even now, a majority of the democratic primary candidates for governor have committed to using a blind trust. Blind trusts are also used by governors in other states, both republicans and democrats. The Governor’s blind trust has also been upheld multiple times by the State Commission on Ethics and the court system.

This doesn't answer the question. The reason Scott's net worth has increased is because the investments in his blind trust have done well. For example, a company that he and his wife were majority owners, Continental Structural Plastics, was struggling when he became governor, but sold for $825 million in 2017. The investment company controlled by Rick and Ann Scott received $550 million in revenue from the sale. It is unknown how much they had in liabilities. Prior to the sale, CSP made several beneficial partnerships, including with companies in China and France. During this time, Scott's long-time investment advisor and former son-in-law sat on the board.

Q: Governor Scott is currently the only elected official in Florida who has placed assets in a blind trust – why not let Floridians be able to see what the Governor has investments in?

The Florida Commission on Ethics has recommended blind trusts be used to protect the people of Florida from having an elected official make decision for their own financial benefit. The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed and who is prevented from sharing this information with the Governor.

A blind trust has been used by Florida elected officials such as Jeb Bush and Alex Sink, and even now, a majority of the democratic primary candidates for governor have committed to using a blind trust. Blind trusts are also used by governors in other states, both republicans and democrats. The Governor’s blind trust has also been upheld multiple times by the State Commission on Ethics and the court system.

Q: Governor Scott has personally known Alan Lee Bazaar, CEO of the trustee of the blind trust, Hollow Brook Wealth Management LLC, for many years – how can he claim information is kept confidential?

Alan Lee Bazaar is an independent financial professional who meets all the requirements defined in the state law. The rules of the blind trust prevent Bazaar from disclosing any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

Q: Will Governor Scott use a blind trust as Senator? If yes – who will run it?

As always, Governor Scott will follow all of the rules and guidelines required of an elected official. Right now, Governor Scott is focused on winning this campaign so he can reform Washington so that it works for Floridians – not career politicians. The Governor will work out these details after he is elected.

Q: Governor’s Scott blind trust includes assets in interests that are specific to Florida – doesn’t that hinder his ability to govern/ create a conflict of interest?

Absolutely not. The Florida Commission on Ethics has recommended blind trusts be used to protect the people of Florida from having an elected official make decision for their own financial benefit. The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

For questions on specific investments, please contact the Scott for Florida campaign atpress@scottforflorida.com or 850-631-0322.

Q: Why are the First Lady’s investments just now being disclosed?

First Lady Ann Scott is not an elected official. The full investments are being released today to comply with all rules and requirements for running for federal office.

Q: Governor Scott last terminated his blind trust and disclosed assets in 2014 – how can the Governor assure Floridians he did not use that knowledge to increase his net worth?

Every decision by Governor Scott has been made in the best interests of the Floridians he serves. In the interest of full transparency, in 2014 the Governor terminated his blind trust in order to disclose assets. After the disclosure, the assets were immediately placed back in a blind trust and those assets remained under the management of an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

Q: Have the Governor’s assets been placed back in a blind trust?

Yes. Governor Scott terminated the blind trust to meet federal guidelines to run for federal office. After the required disclosure, the assets were immediately placed back into a blind trust, and those assets remain under the management of an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed.

Q: Many assets and transactions involving those assets are visible to the public through U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reports – has Governor Scott reviewed any of his blind trust’s SEC filings? 

No. Governor Scott personally chose to put his assets in a blind trust when he was elected to prevent any potential conflicts of interest, and he has remained committed to that decision.

The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

The SEC reports, including those that showed that Rick Scott is the beneficial owner of investments held by Ann Scott, were signed by the governor. The income taxes the governor has chosen to release show they are jointly filed with his wife and indicate the income from the investments each of them has. The income taxes show they were also signed by the governor.

Q: Why does the federal filing show different income than the state filing?

The state and federal filings each have different rules, requirements, and timelines. As always, Governor Scott followed all of these requirements.

Q: Governor Scott invested in mosquito control services and supported Miami-Dade County spraying for mosquitoes during the Zika epidemic – isn’t that a conflict of interest?

Every decision made by the Governor was made in the best interests of Florida families.

During the Zika epidemic, Governor Scott’s sole focus was doing everything possible to protect the residents and visitors of our state, specifically pregnant women and their unborn children. Any assertation otherwise is completely false. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, the State of Florida aggressively and tirelessly worked to combat this dangerous disease in order to keep families safe. As well as assisting with mosquito spraying, which was recommended by the CDC, Governor Scott also directed the state to extensively expand mosquito traps, provide bug repellant to travelers at international airports, launch targeted door-to-door educational and testing campaigns and signed executive orders authorizing more than $61 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, preparation and research.

The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

Q: Governor Scott received a significant amount of money from the sale of one company, Continental Structural Plastics – Did he know about the sale? Did he meet with Japanese investors during the economic development mission to Japan? Did he personally work to secure the sale?

Governor Scott was not aware of the sale and had no role in the sale.

The Governor’s 2013 economic development mission to Japan was solely focused on strengthening Florida and Japan’s trade relationship and encouraging further investment and job creation in Florida. Japanese companies account for more than 20,000 Florida jobs and the state maintains a sister-jurisdiction relationship with Wakayama Prefecture and nine Florida cities partner with sister cities in Japan.

The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

Scott's long time advisor, Gregory Scott, and his former son-in-law served on the board of Continental Structural Plastics, prior to and during the discussion about the sale of the company. 

Q: Governor Scott invested in many energy companies that have direct ties to Florida – isn’t that a conflict of interest?

No. The whole purpose of the blind trust is to prevent such conflicts of interests. Furthermore, Governor Scott does not unilaterally decide how state contracts are awarded – there are thorough processes and rules that state agencies can provide to you. Any state contract awarded was done so in accordance with Florida law.

Opponents have suggested that Scott's investments have been influenced by policy choices he has made as governor. For example, the governor and his wife invested in Gilead, a company the state contracts with for Hep C drugs. Because of his limited disclosure, it is not known whether the investments were made before or after negotiations began for the state contract. 

The blind trust is managed by an independent financial professional who decides what assets are bought, sold or changed. The rules of the blind trust prevent any specific assets or the value of those assets within the trust from being disclosed to the Governor, and those requirements have always been followed.

Timeline on Blind Trusts in Florida

2009 Annual Report: In its annual report, the Florida Commission on Ethics called on the Legislature to enact laws to allow cabinet officers to use blind trusts to avoid conflicts of interest.

December 2010: Florida’s 19th Statewide Grand Jury, who was tasked to develop specific recommendations to improve Florida’s ethics laws, recommended that blind trusts be used by public officials to avoid conflicts of interests.

2010 Annual Report: In its annual report, the Florida Commission on Ethics called on the Legislature to enact laws to allow cabinet officers to use blind trusts to avoid conflicts of interest.

April 2011: Gov. Scott voluntarily follows precedent and puts his assets into a blind trust.

May 2011: The Florida Commission on Ethics concluded that the Governor’s blind trust was an appropriate way to avoid conflicts of interests.

2011 Annual Report: In its annual report, the Florida Commission on Ethics called on the Legislature to enact laws to allow cabinet officers to use blind trusts to avoid conflicts of interest.

Legislative Session 2011, 2012: No bills regarding blind trusts were filed.

2012 Annual Report: In its annual report, the Florida Commission on Ethics called on the Legislature to enact laws to allow cabinet officers to use blind trusts to avoid conflicts of interest.

Legislative Session 2013: Senate Bill 2 is passed which established uniformed standards for qualified blind trusts for elected officials.

This bill passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by the Governor.

Legislative Session 2014:  No bills regarding blind trusts were filed.

June 2014: In the interest of full transparency, Governor Scott terminated his blind trust and publicly disclosed its contents. The same day, Governor Scott established a new blind trust to continue to avoid conflicts of interests.

August 2014: A Tallahassee trial court upholds the constitutionality of Florida’s blind trusts law.

Legislative Sessions 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018: No bills regarding blind trusts were filed.

April 2017: The Florida Commission on Ethics upholds the Governor’s use of a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interests.

June 2017: The Florida Commission on Ethics again upholds the Governor’s use of a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interests.

October 2017: The Florida Commission on Ethics again upholds the Governor’s use of a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interests.

 

 

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