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Democrats’ Fifth-Amendment paradox

By Tom Jackson
Published: June 23, 2014

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with TV’s “Law & Order” franchises know there’s more to taking the Fifth Amendment — the constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination — than simply taking the Fifth Amendment.

These days, the Florida Democratic Party is manufacturing jollies by jabbing Gov. Rick Scott’s extensive use of the Fifth during a 2000 deposition. Here’s the deal: Democrats want you to believe his evasions were linked to a federal investigation of Medicare fraud by Columbia/HCA, the healthcare provider he used to run.

In a willfully misleading TV commercial that airs incessantly, including, no doubt, during reruns of various “Law & Order” spin-offs, FDP puts Scott’s invocation of the Fifth at 75, a figure not worth disputing.

The total could be 75 times 75, and it would make absolutely no difference, because the deposition in question was part of a breach of contract civil lawsuit that had nothing to do with the feds’ pursuit of Columbia/HCA.

An apt comparison is Lois Lerner’s employment of the Fifth Amendment shield during her brief appearance before the House Oversight Committee. Subpoenaed to give testimony on the very shenanigans investigators believe she was in on, Lerner, former head of the IRS’ tax-exempt status department, declared herself innocent of wrongdoing, then clammed up behind the Bill of Rights.

Meanwhile, Democrats who claim there’s nothing to be gleaned from Lerner’s aggressive elusiveness in the face of her probable GOP accusers want us to believe Scott’s silence in a matter unrelated to his old company’s law-skirting is revelatory. You can believe that if you want to.

Or you can believe, a wing of the ever-so-slightly-left-leaning Annenburg Public Policy Center, which lays out FDP’s shoddy workmanship in detail, the essence of which is this:

Scott was deposed on July 27, 2000, not for the federal government’s criminal case against Scott’s company, but for an unrelated civil case between Nevada Communications Corp. and Columbia/HCA. Nevada Communications Corp. filed a claim against Columbia/HCA for violating the terms of a communications contract.

At the beginning of the deposition ... Scott’s attorney, Steven Steinbach, informed the opposing counsel that his client would be exercising his right not to answer any questions due to other pending cases involving Columbia/HCA. ...

Scott may not have answered the questions during the deposition because of other pending cases against his company, including the federal investigation, but the TV ad suggests that he used the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering dozens of direct questions about his company’s attempts to defraud the Medicare program. That’s not the case.

Saying the ad contains “false, misleading and defamatory information,” the Republican Party of Florida has demanded TV stations stop airing it. A letter from RPOF attorney Jason Torchinsky said, in part, “As you know, your station’s obligation to serve the public interest requires you to decline to air false and misleading advertising.”

Knowing a burr under a saddle when they see one (and knowing they can count on cover from leftish “fact-checkers”), FDP spokesman Joshua Karp fired back in a statement:

This is a laughable and canned campaign tactic. Rick Scott pled the fifth 75 times, period. Rick Scott knows it. The RPOF knows it. But rather than answer the questions surrounding the largest case of Medicare fraud in our nation’s history, Rick Scott once again tries to avoid the questions and hide behind this bogus letter. After all, he’s cut special deals with campaign donors and spent his entire time as governor while [sic] refusing to release the transcripts of his depositions. If Rick Scott wants to give Floridians the truth, he should stop pleading the fifth about his own sordid legal past.

Again, Scott was never charged in the Columbia/HCA scandal, and was never, in fact, interviewed by the feds. Karp’s central allegation, then — Scott used the deposition to dodge questions about Medicare fraud — is a lie. Flat-out. Plain and simple. The only reasonable conclusion, then, is Democrats are willing to twist, shade, manipulate, camouflage and otherwise sculpt the truth to benefit their desired ends.

Which — OK, sure — makes them a political party. But whatever else it is, politics shouldn’t the art of seeing what you can get away with (like accusing a presidential candidate of giving your wife cancer). In the case of Rick Scott and the Fifth Amendment, FDP’s blatant matching of a subject with an unrelated predicate goes too far.