The St. Pete Times takes credit for an ethics complaint filed against Rick Scott, and Rick Scott takes credit for stopping a government shutdown.
The Times can’t pat itself on the back enough for allegedly triggering an ethics complaint by an activist named David Plyer against the Solantic CEO governor, who placed his $62 million investment in a trust so blind, he’d have to not talk to his wife for three years in order not to know what’s in it.
Never mind that columnists and bloggers (yours truly included), not to mention the Palm Beach Post (which to my knowledge, had the story first) and Mother Jones magazine began pointing out Scott’s potential conflicts of interest before the Times, which thought it wisdom to post a front page homage to the governor’s boots, took up the issue. But hey, if you can’t pat your own back, who will? And I’m assuming that Plyer clipped stories from his home county’s newspaper in his filing, so there you go. (More on Plyer from the SP Times archives here.)
Also interesting that the Times spent most of its story running down Plyer’s history (giving itself credit for each of his prior ethics filings against politicians.) But then, maybe I’m just in a mood because of that ridiculous, suck-upish ”boots” story…
Moving on, it appears that Gollum has been spooked. The Post, not to be outdone, is reporting this morning that he’s seeking to sell of his interest in Solantic:
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott said Monday that the former health care executive is in the process of divesting his family’s shares of Solantic, the urgent care chain that Scott co-founded in 2001, to eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest.
The news follows a Palm Beach Post story that detailed how the governor transferred his controlling interest in the clinic chain to his wife’s trust shortly before he was inaugurated, meeting the letter of state ethics laws if not the intent.
Rumors spread through Tallahassee and Twitter on Monday that a complaint had been filed against Scott with the Florida Commission on Ethics. But Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said that neither he nor anyone in his office had seen a complaint.
Asked to respond to reports of a complaint Monday, Scott repeated past remarks.
“As you know, I’ve been transparent. I was transparent in my race. I’ve put those assets in my wife’s name,” Scott said. “Everybody knows it. I’ve been very clear. I’ve said that the state will not have a contract with that company. I’ve told everybody, ‘Hold me accountable.’?”
Any citizen can file an ethics complaint against a public official, but the complaint is kept confidential until a probable-cause investigation is conducted and the findings are heard at a public meeting. The ethics commission’s next public meeting is May 13. It’s unclear whether an inquiry into the Scott complaint, if one exists, would be ready in time for that agenda.
Legal experts and ethicists say Scott’s clinic ownership would be illegal in many states — though not necessarily in Florida.
Scott oversees two state agencies involved in regulating clinics and their professionals. Some of Solantic’s 32 clinics see state Medicaid and Medicaid HMO clients. Also, the governor’s executive order requiring random drug tests of state employees has added to the scrutiny, because Solantic conducts employer and private drug screening.
And dig this whingey response from Scott spokesman Brian Burgess:
“I get that people think there’s a conflict, but I don’t get what people think should be done about it,” Burgess said. “If he can’t divest instantly, what should he do?”
The Post also used its piece to try and reclaim the story (newspaper rivalry, dead ahead…!):
Scott’s answers about Solantic have evolved, from claiming no involvement with the company to promising it won’t contract with the state.
Despite Scott’s reiteration that he’s been transparent about transferring the Solantic shares to his wife, it was The Post that first reported the transfer March 13 after interviews with company officials. Six requests to the governor’s office on the topic had been ignored.
The Post found that soon after Scott was elected, three of his lawyers visited the Florida Commission on Ethics. They were Enu Mainigi, a Washington corporate defense lawyer and partner with Williams & Connolly, who headed Scott’s transition team; James Fuller, a corporate structure specialist and another Williams & Connolly partner; and Richard Coates, a Tallahassee ethics lawyer. The lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
No written documents were created from those informal meetings, and no written opinions were requested or given. Soon after the visit, the attorneys moved Scott’s shares into the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust.
The trust reportedly controls 70 percent of Solantic’s shares. The second-largest shareholder is Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a New York City-based private equity investment firm that in 2007 announced a $100 million investment in Solantic. The equity firm would be a likely buyer of Scott’s shares, but people close to the negotiation say the firm is attempting to low-ball its offer because of the governor’s difficult political situation.
Meanwhile, speaking of claiming credit where credit may or may not be due, seems that Scott himself is joining the parade, actually claiming credit for … wait for it … avoiding a FEDERAL government shutdown. No, really, he did that. Per Political Correction:
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has been on a power trip for months now, so it was really only a matter of time before his ego expanded to encompass the federal government’s activities as well. Now, Scott wants you to know that he is actually the one who helped avert a federal government shutdown last week, even though he’s the governor of Florida and not a part of the federal government at all! Isn’t that amazing?
It’s so amazing that you probably won’t even understand how it happened. You see, Rick Scott was able to save that boondoggling federal government of ours despite the fact that he’s been unable to get his own state’s budget deficit under control (probably because he’s trying to cut off its sources of revenue). But then again, who really knows how these things work?
So how did he do it? In a press release titled “Governor Rick Scott Helps Avoid Government Shutdown and Save Federal Taxpayers $1.5 Billion,” he explains:
This weekend as Washington, D.C., insiders struggled to find billions to prevent a government shutdown, they found $1.5 billion worth of taxpayer money exactly where Governor Rick Scott left it: in the boondoggle high speed rail proposal.
“I am proud to have brought this waste to the attention of those in Washington,” Governor Rick Scott stated in response to the news. “These funds should either be returned to taxpayers as tax cuts or applied to reducing the burden that our national debt is passing to future generations.”
According to media reports, the final continuing resolution from Congress will include a $1.5 billion reduction in funds for high speed rail. Governor Scott rejected $2.4 billion for the project in Florida.
Well isn’t that special. Please, somebody explain to Gov. Line My Pockets that the money he rejected isn’t getting cut from the budget — it’s getting redistributed, probably to California and Illinois. The high speed rail cuts in the budget compromise have to do with trimming Amtrak rail improvements and extensions. Nothing to do with Florida, Mr. Smeagal.
But good luck on that ethics thing.