Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Ethics Of Rick Scott

Basically, he doesn't have any.

Yes, let's do start off with the fact he ran a corporation that committed billions in Medicare Fraud to where the company had to fire him and pay $1.7 billion total in fines.

He still - God help us - bought his way into the Governor's office in 2010.  So let's look at a lot of the questionable things he's done in office:

His hand-picked Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll had to resign over her own ethics conflicts and criminal investigation involving Internet gambling cafes.

His hand-picked Education Commissioner had to resign over evidence he intervened in falsifying school evaluations owned by a prominent Republican Party fundraiser at his previous employ in Indiana.  So far, Scott isn't showing any skill in hiring the best of the best to work with him.  Speaking of...

He's had a high turnover rate of staff moreso than other governors, either due to scandal (see above) or internal office conflicts that point to a chaotic and mismanaged office.

He had on staff during his transition period one Adam Hollingsworth, who advised against the high-speed rail deal, then promptly went to work for a rail company pushing the All Aboard Florida project that rivaled the high-speed rail plan.  Thing about All Aboard Florida is that its:
...256-mile rail service has been touted from the beginning as a completely privately financed project that will not cost the state a dime, which is the reason Scott said he supports the plan... At this point, though, the project is seeking $1.5 billion in federal loans that could be key to refinancing its existing debt, and more than $230 million in state dollars already have been set aside for projects that either will directly or indirectly benefit All Aboard Florida’s rail line...
Too much of this reeks of inside dealing.  As an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times says:
It's now clear that All Aboard Florida was seeking special treatment from the governor's office as soon as Scott won the 2010 election... Meanwhile, state transportation officials have enabled All Aboard Florida to hide behind exemptions in the public records law to avoid releasing some documents, including a ridership survey that was part of its loan application process. Leaked documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Tallahassee bureau show much of the financial plan will rely on land development along the tracks, not ridership per se, just reinforcing that there is more the public deserves to know. Now Scott is asking the company to slow down to hear from concerned citizens, particularly those between Palm Beach County and Orlando, where no stops are scheduled. This is after he signed a budget that would pay for "quiet zones" in those neighborhoods and after his transportation agency had signed off on the project... Scott is all over the map on rail. ...Now he deceives voters by claiming no public money is going toward All Aboard Florida while millions in state dollars will be spent to make it work, his chief of staff has lobbied for it for years and his transportation department refuses to release documents that should be public...
Another questionable policy push Scott has been working on has been to force state employees and residents applying for financial aid of any kind to get drug-tested on a regular basis.  Despite the facts that 1) a majority of workers and benefits seekers ARE NOT DRUG USERS, and 2) the costs to the state to pay for all that testing was ridiculous.  It doesn't make sense until you consider that Rick Scott's pre-governor gig was being CEO for a chain of state-wide health clinics, which would have seen money pouring in from Scott's enforced drug tests.

Then just a few weeks ago, Scott's campaign committed a breach of campaign rules by having on-duty police officers appear at a rally, giving the impression that law enforcement was backing him for re-election.  Psst: you're not supposed to do that:
...Under Florida law, it's a first-degree misdemeanor for a public official to "directly or indirectly coerce" any employee to engage in political activity, and employees are prohibited from doing so while working.
Scott's campaign said it made its intentions clear but a high-ranking member of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office insisted that he believed he was going to a state event to meet the governor and discuss ways to reduce crime, which is why he asked several deputies to come along.
"We obviously didn't know we were going to a campaign event," said Hillsborough Col. Jim Previtera. "Had we known it was a campaign event, we wouldn't have been there."
Previtera said he was working on Friday, the Fourth of July, when Cody Vildostegui, a Scott campaign aide, asked him to attend a press conference Monday about reducing crime. Previtera's boss, Sheriff David Gee, who supports Scott, was unable to attend.
Also in attendance was another Scott supporter, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who said the same campaign staffer made it clear to him that it was an event promoting Scott's re-election bid.
When asked about it, repeatedly, by reporters at a following event, Rick Scott basically zoned out and refused to directly answer, giving either rote responses or trying to deflect the question.  It made him a punchline for CNN for God's sake.

And now we're getting reports of how his "blind" trust is making money from a pipeline deal one of his staffers promoted while on his payroll:

Upon his election, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades...
...Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.
What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that Gov. Scott owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by FPL that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.’s review of financial records made public last month by Gov. Scott show that as of Dec. 31 his portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas – including some, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.
His stake in Spectra Energy was reported as being worth $53,000 that day.
Florida’s ethics laws generally prohibit public officials like the governor from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation, or that do business with state agencies. A similar prohibition exists on owning shares in companies that would “create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict” between an official’s private interests and the “full and faithful discharge” of his public duties...
The problem is that the stock purchase happened while his portfolio was under a "blind trust".  While Scott isn't supposed to have any interaction with his trust, there's no guarantee he didn't get word to his handlers to put a little money in on a company he knew was going to do some profitable business.  Similar to Scott's push to drug-test everybody (okay, I exaggerate, Scott doesn't want to drug-test Florida elected officials), this is where Scott's policy actions are directly affecting his business holdings.

All of these things taken separately, you don't see much: maybe you see an elected official's office in a level of disarray.  But if you put it together... if you see the habits that Scott keeps, and the environment in which he puts himself...

What I see is an ongoing pattern from well before his governorship of running his office with disregard for rules.  A disregard to the point where laws get broken in the pursuit of personal profits.  It's a habit that didn't stop the second he took his oath of office.  An oath he doesn't take seriously.

Rick Scott performs his job as governor to enrich Rick Scott the businessman and no one else.  He holds no ethical values that would conflict with his self-serving wants.  He pursues personal profit at the expense of the public interest.

This is not a man who deserves our vote.  This is not a man to put in a position of public trust.


Glidwrith said...

You should add in his numerous antics to keep people from voting. Kind of hard to get rid of a crook when he's rigged the game.

Paul Wartenberg said...

The attempts at vote-rigging is kind of a separate issue: it's more of a Republican Party agenda and less his own. I suppose I could have gone more into Scott's attempts to pack the state courts with his business cronies and purge judges he doesn't approve, but I'd like to think I've made my point with the evidence presented here.