Florida Republicans are demanding that television stations refuse to run an ad by the Democratic Party that focuses on Gov. Rick Scott pleading the 5th Amendment in a 2000 deposition to avoid incriminating himself in a massive Medicare fraud investigation.
Democrats responded that the complaint is “laughable,” however, and the facts cited in the ad are correct -- Scott’s own lawyer acknowledges in the deposition that he’s pleading the 5th to avoid self-incrimination in the fraud case.
The ad focuses on the federal Medicare, Tricare and Medicaid fraud case against the company Scott founded and ran until 1997, the Columbia/HCA hospital chain. It led to the largest health care fraud fine ever imposed, $1.7 billion. Scott was fired, with a big severance package, in 1997.
The ad says “when Scott was deposed in lawsuits about his company, he took the 5th 75 times ... refused to answer questions because if he had, he might admit to committing a crime.”
In a letter to television stations, the state GOP asked they refuse to run the ad. They said it’s false because the deposition wasn’t about the Medicare fraud investigation -- it was part of a civil lawsuit in which a health care billing company was suing Columbia/HCA for breach of contract.
Scott took the 5th Amendment in response to every question in the deposition except when he was asked his name, even refusing to say whether he ever worked for Columbia/HCA.
“The truth is Rick Scott avoided answering questions when being deposed in 2000 about a completely unrelated breach of contract civil case between his former company, Columbia/HCA and Nevada Communications Corp.,” Republicans said in the letter to television stations. “Rick Scott was never deposed by federal investigators in the criminal case involving his former company.”
Even though the civil case wasn’t part of the Medicare investigation, however, Scott’s lawyer acknowledged in the deposition that he was pleading the 5th because of the investigation.
At the beginning of the deposition, Scott’s lawyer, Steven Steinbach, states that, “because of the pendency of a number of criminal investigations relating to Columbia around the country, he’s going to follow my advice, out of prudence, (and) assert his constitutional privilege against giving testimony about himself,”
At one point during the deposition, the opposing lawyer asks Scott whether Columbia/HCA breached its contract with Nevada Communications Corp. “to cover up or obfuscate Columbia’s improper billing practices,” the subject of the federal investigation. As with all the other questions, Scott cites the 5th Amendment and refuses to answer.
Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele said the ad, similar to a web ad posted earlier by the party, is being run this week “in targeted areas in a six-figure ad buy,” and could be run more in the future.