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Florida’s New Governor Will Be Record-Setter

Florida flag (photo: erjkprunczyk (away) on Flickr)

With the very close Florida gubernatorial race coming down to the wire today, the only thing that can be said with certainty about the outcome before the polls close is that the new governor will be a record-setter. Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate, would be Florida’s first female governor. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate, would be the first governor to have served as CEO of a firm that paid a record-setting fine to the US government to settle fraud charges. In addition to resigning as CEO during the investigation that led to $1.7 billion in fines being paid, Scott also likely would set the record for the number of times invoking the Fifth Amendment’s right against testimony that might incriminate himself, having invoked it 75 times in a deposition on a different case while the fraud case was still an active investigation.

Alex Sink began as a banker, working her way through the upper ranks of what was Barnett Bank before the wave of bank consolidations hit Florida. She has served as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer since 2006, when she was the only Democrat to besides Bill Nelson to win a statewide race. Barnett Bank was regularly cited as one of the most family-friendly workplaces in Florida during her tenure there.  . . .

As for Scott, here is PolitiFact on the fine:

Even when condensed to two paragraphs, you can see the potential land mines Rick Scott, a Republican running for governor, might face over his former hospital chain, Columbia/HCA.

Paragraph 1. Scott grew Columbia/HCA into the nation’s biggest hospital system. It then became the center of a multi-state federal investigation in 1997 that centered around whether Columbia/HCA defrauded Medicare and Medicaid. Scott resigned under pressure in 1997 as the scope of the investigation grew.

Paragraph 2. Columbia/HCA eventually settled the fraud cases, paying a record-setting $1.7 billion in fines. The company pleaded guilty to at least 14 corporate felonies. Four people also were indicted; two were convicted, but those convictions were overturned on appeal. Scott himself was not indicted or questioned in the case.

And here is PolitiFact on Scott taking the Fifth Amendment:

Scott indeed did give a deposition in 2000 in which he invoked the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 75 times. The amendment reads in part that no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

Scott’s deposition, however, was not part of the criminal fraud case being pursued by the federal government. In fact, Scott was never officially questioned during the federal criminal investigation. Instead, the case in question was a civil case involving Columbia/HCA and Nevada Communications Corp. Nevada Communications alleged that Columbia/HCA breached the terms of a communications contract.

Scott’s lawyer interjected after an opposing lawyer began the deposition by asking if Scott was employed. “Under normal circumstances, Mr. Scott would be pleased to answer that question and other questions that you pose today,” Scott’s lawyer, Steven Steinbach, said. “Unfortunately 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, to assert his constitutional privilege against giving testimony against himself.

So, although it was a different case than the fraud case that led to the $1.7 billion fine, Scott invoked the Fifth and refused to testify in the Nevada Communications deposition because the larger fraud investigation was still active. Let’s see any state match those records for fines against a governor’s company or the number of times invoking the Fifth Amendment!


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Jim White

Jim White

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