The Tampa Bay Times editorial board is calling on Florida lawmakers to enact stricter reporting requirements so that citizens can better know where politicians get their money and spot conflicts of interest.
The Times writes about the financial reporting system that allows Gov. Rick Scott to hide some aspects of his financial holdings in Florida, while being required to disclose other financial matters under federal rules. Scott has to abide by federal rules because he is running for the U.S. Senate. The Times writes:
“Scott released a detailed financial statement in July, disclosing for the first time that he’s worth at least $255 million, with more than $173 million in his wife’s name outside a blind trust that is intended to prevent conflicts of interest. The disclosure came as part of Scott’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Unlike Florida law, federal law requires him to reveal assets held by either him or his wife. That total figure is higher than an earlier state filing in July. And Ann Scott’s assets are outside the $82 million in the blind trust that Scott said was intended to remove him from any conflicts of interest as governor.
This is the first time the Republican governor has disclosed his wife’s holdings. The filing shows that Scott’s wife holds most of the family assets; “spouse” is listed as owner of every asset on 84 pages of a report that must be reviewed and approved by the Senate Ethics Committee. But the details remain vague; federal candidates are required to report the value of their assets only in broad ranges, as opposed to specific amounts, making it impossible to know exactly how much the Scotts are worth. The report said Ann Scott holds as much as $500,000 in stock in NextEra Energy Partners, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest investor-owned utility.”
Also, Politico Florida reports that the governor’s wife, Ann Scott, gave a $100,000 to $250,000 loan to an accountant who used to work at Scott’s investment firm. The accountant is now working for the firm that handles Scott’s blind trust.
“This problem will likely only get worse in the coming years,” the Times writes, “as more wealthy candidates who have the ability to self-fund their campaigns seek elected office. At least two Democrats who are seeking to succeed Scott have said they intend to use a blind trust or are open to it. Florida’s financial disclosure requirements for candidates and officeholders should be reformed to better ensure that blind trusts are really blind and that all of the family’s assets are included in a blind trust or publicly disclosed.”