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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018
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Another factor for Rick Scott to consider for Senate bid: Disclosing, managing his money

How much is our governor worth? $300 million? $500 million? A mere $149 million?

We will receive a much clearer answer on Rick Scott's finances if, as widely expected, he runs for U.S. Senate, which has significantly tighter financial disclosure requirements than Florida.

Assets in the name of First Lady Ann Scott, for instance, are not required to be disclosed under Florida's blind trust law, but would be for a U.S. Senate candidate or senator. Likewise, Scott no longer would be allowed to use a longtime business associate and partner to manage his blind trust because the Senate requires a "completely independent" trustee.

Scott used to lead health care company Columbia/HCA, which paid a record $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud that occurred under his watch. He left the company in 1997, before the company admitted guilt, and received a $300 million severance.

Scott's latest financial disclosure forms say he was worth about $149 million as of the end of 2016. Assorted critics of Florida's blind trust law suspect he is worth much more.

Florida allows public officials to create a blind trust rather than revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form, as most officials do. The idea is that if the public official doesn't know how his money is invested, he can't have a conflict of interest when making decisions.

Critics see two major flaws:

First, that keeps the information away from the public, even though the state Constitution requires "full and public disclosure" of elected officials' assets and debts of more than $1,000.

Second, qualified blind trusts like Scott's are not truly blind. Information about assorted investment transactions is publicly available elsewhere, including Securities and Exchange Commissioner filings. The Florida Bulldog, a nonpartisan watchdog site, has reported several instances of Scott making investments that intersect with his decision-making as governor.

Skeptics also question Scott's decision to put a longtime business associate in charge of his investments (as well as Scott family members).

A pending lawsuit against Scott from a Democratic attorney in Tallahassee asserts that the governor still controls a family trust with his wife and has failed to disclose all the assets in it. It also claims that federal records indicate Scott approved the sales of stock included in the family trust and that Scott retains control over some of his blind trust assets.

Other legal challenges of Scott's blind trust have failed.

If Scott really hasn't made up his mind about running against Sen. Bill Nelson, one factor for him to mull is his willingness to change how his finances are disclosed and managed.

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Another factor for Rick Scott to consider for Senate bid: Disclosing, managing his money