Think you know everything there is to know about Rick Scott, the guy you can’t get off your TV in Florida? Here are five things to add to your knowledge base.
1. He is not an “outsider.” — Not only has Rick Scott cowed the Florida GOP establishment, he was already a crony of the Bush family, having co-owned the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush. A former Bush White House staffer has signed onto the Scott campaign, and with Jeb also in his corner, it should be clear to anyone who’s paying attention that far from being a tea party insurgency, the Scott run is more of a white table cloth rebellion by corporate titans who long for the long-lost Dubya era of tax cuts (for them) and deregulation of their industries. Looked at that way, both the McCollum and Scott campaigns were Bush restorations of a sort, which makes it easier to see why Jeb is cool with the outcome either way.
2. He didn’t always have a beef with “career politicians” — In fact, during the 2008 election cycle, Scott gave more than $45,000 to rather doctrinaire politicians like Mitt Romney, and about $30,000 to tea party anathema John McCain. He’s even given thousands of dollars to pro-”pathway to citizenship” immigration moderate Mel Martinez, to moderate Connie Mack, and to the blood bank of political careerism, the Republican National Committee.
3. He is not necessarily going to go all Meg Whitman on Florida. — Scott is now in such firm control of the party that used to hate him (but now just fears him), he’s bragging that he “probably” won’t have to spend his own cash through November (which is supposed to be the point of nominating a guy who can self-fund…) meaning he’ll get the special interests that back McCollum to start writing checks, or someone might get hurt… UPDATE: Scott has also begun hiring Bill McCollum’s fundraising team.
4. The fraud committed by his former company, Columbia/HCA, was worse than you think. — According to the 2003 press release from what was by then the Bush Justice Department, relating to an investigation that began in the Clinton years, the $1.7 million fine the company paid was the largest in history, involved criminal, not just civil fraud, stretched back to the Reagan era, and even involved defrauding the healthcare system used by our military. From the release:
Under the first of three agreements announced today, which becomes effective upon the court’s dismissal of the lawsuits, HCA will pay nearly $620 million to resolve eight whistleblower lawsuits in which the government had intervened alleging that HCA systematically defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded health care programs through schemes dating back to the late 1980s. HCA will pay an additional $11 million to resolve separate allegations of improper HCA billing practices.
The settlement requires HCA to pay:
- $356 million to resolve whistleblower lawsuits alleging that HCA engaged in a series of schemes to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE, the military’s health care program, through hospital cost reports, the year end claims submitted by hospitals to the government to reconcile payments received throughout the year with amounts they claim are actually owed. In 2001, a subsidiary of Nashville-based HCA, Columbia Management Companies, Inc., pled guilty in the Middle District of Florida to related charges on eight counts of making false statements to the United States and paid $22.6 million in criminal fines. An additional amount of $20 million of the settlement is being paid toward a resolution of cost reporting fraud allegations pursued separately by James Alderson and John Schilling, the relators who filed the lawsuits. In total, the two relators are to receive a total of $100 million as their statutory share of the settlement.
- $225.5 million to resolve lawsuits alleging that HCA hospitals and home health agencies unlawfully billed Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for claims generated by the payment of kickbacks and other illegal remuneration to physicians in exchange for referral of patients. In 2001, Columbia Management Companies, Inc., pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to pay kickbacks and other monetary benefits to doctors in violation of the Medicare Antikickback Statute and paid a $30 million criminal fine. Dr. James Thompson, a doctor who filed suit against the company in 1995, will receive $41.5 million as his statutory share of the settlement. Gary King, a former HCA employee, will receive $5 million and Ann Mroz, a former HCA nurse, will receive a share of $837,500.
- $17 million to resolve allegations that certain company-owned hospitals billed Medicare for unallowable costs incurred by a contractor that operated HCA wound care centers, and for a non-covered drug that the contractor manufactured and sold to hospital patients. The 2001 Columbia Management Companies’ guilty plea concerning cost report fraud included a charge related to wound care center costs. HCA’s wound care center management contractor, Curative Healthcare Services, Inc., previously paid $16.5 million to resolve related allegations pending at one time in these same lawsuits. Joseph “Mickey” Parslow, a former HCA financial officer, will receive $2,990,000 and Francesco Lanni, a former Reimbursement Manager at the Wound Care Center at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, will receive a share of $680,000.
- $5 million to resolve allegations concerning the transfer of patients from HCA facilities to other facilities and the claiming of excessive costs for those transfers.
- $5 million to resolve allegations that HCA’s Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, Florida submitted false claims in Medicare cost reports by inflating its entitlement to funds to treat indigent patients and by shifting employee salary costs in order to increase its reimbursement from the federal health care program.
- $950,000 to settle allegations made by Michael Marine that HCA improperly shifted its home office costs to hospitals. Marine will receive a share of $116,500.
And last but not least:
5. Scott is significantly less popular among Republicans than his main opponent Alex Sink is among Democrats. — Despite all of the doom and gloom pronouncement emanating out of every primary this season, as pundits predict that Democrats will lose 730 House seats — giving up seats that only exist in Charlie Cook and Mark Halperin’s minds — plus every conceivable office from governor to dog catcher, Sink actually bested Scott on election night, 669,426 to 599,696, a difference of 69,730 votes. Sink got 77 percent of the votes in her arguably non-competitive race. Scott got 46 percent. And while it’s hard to imagine Brian Moore’s supporters not heading into Sink’s camp, it’s not clear that all of McCollum’s 563,000 voters, or the voters for the third guy in the race, Mike McCallister, who got 130,944 votes without many people even knowing who he was (meaning those voters affirmatively said “no” to both McCollum and Scott) will go Scott’s way, especially if McCollum sticks to his guns and refuses to endorse him (or at this point, to even commit to vote for him.) Sure, many McCollum Republicans will write off poor Bill as a sore loser, but his view of Scott’s lack of character can’t be his alone.
Bottom line, Scott will get a majority of the GOPers who come out in November, but what kind of majority? If it’s a bare one, he’s in trouble. Sink has strong appeal among moderate to center-right voters, plus potential appeal to Republican women, who are polling in the dregs where Scott is concerned. And Scott has emerged from the bruising primary with very high negatives among his own. It’s arguable that Sink can benefit from both the Kendrick Meek voters who come out in November AND the Charlie Crist folks, who will by default be more moderate, more independent, and drawn from both major parties. Scott will get zero cross-over. He’s down to tea partiers and that’s about it. With evangelicals having trashed him during the primary, it’s not even clear he can get those souls to the polls. Will the Schlaffley-Bauer axis get on board the way Tallahassee Republicans have? That remains to be seen. So far, the Christian Family Coalition’s website is silent on Scott, whose corporate impurity on abortion (and stem cell research), despite his haranguing on the issue, and his distortions and misuse of a Texas family (I smell a commercial!…) could make the Christian vote less than enthusiastic about turning out for him.
BONUS: Based on his fixation on national issues, Scott may have ambitions beyond the governorship. In fact, it’s hard to detect much interest in the mundane issues of governing the state of Florida. Scott’s latest “issue” doesn’t even deal with the job of governor. Instead, he’s joined the Club For Growth chorus against letting the Bush tax cuts expire.