News Column

Florida Gov. Scott discloses net worth of $132.7 million

June 17, 2014

By George Bennett and Christine Stapleton, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

June 17--Gov. Rick Scott reported a net worth of $132.7 million in 2013 -- up from $83.8 million the year before -- and released three years of joint tax returns for himself and his wife as he filed papers Monday to run for re-election.

Scott's filing lists more than $100 million in investments held in a blind trust that has been the subject of a lawsuit by open-records advocates. After revealing the contents of the blind trust "to provide the public full transparency" for his candidate financial disclosure statement, Scott put the holdings back into a blind trust.

Scott's likely Democratic opponent, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, also filed candidate papers Monday and listed a net worth of $1.2 million. Crist reported 2013 income of $712,780 as an attorney, consultant and book author.

Monday marked the beginning of Florida's four-day period when candidates for state and local offices must submit financial disclosures and other paperwork and pay filing fees to appear on the 2014 ballot. The qualifying period ends at noon Friday. Qualifying for federal and judicial candidates ended last month.

Scott, who does not take the $130,273 state salary that comes with being governor, reported $3.1 million in investment income in 2013.

Scott's campaign also released joint federal income tax returns for Rick and Ann Scott from 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Scotts have not completed their 2013 tax return but will make it public when they file it, Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

The Scotts reported adjusted gross income of $9.3 million in 2010, $80.3 million in 2011 and $8.7 million in 2012.

In releasing the joint tax returns, which are not required by Florida law, Scott challenged Crist to also release tax returns for himself and his wife Carole from 2011 and 2012, Crist's first years as a private citizen.

"His immediate public production of these tax returns for 2011 and 2012 is important to provide the people of Florida the transparency they deserve," Scott said.

"We are going to release way more because Charlie Crist believes in transparency," Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate said.

Scott, a former health care executive, listed a net worth of $218.6 million for 2009 when he ran for governor in 2010. The first-time candidate spent $73 million of his own money that year to score a surprise GOP primary win and narrow general election victory.

Upon taking office in 2011, Scott won ­approval from the state's Commission on Ethics to put his holdings in a blind trust steered by money managers independent of the governor. In 2013, the Legislature approved a measure allowing such blind trusts to be used as a form of financial disclosure for elected officials.

A lawsuit argued before the Florida Supreme Court last month contends the blind trusts, which allow office-holders to report holdings in lump-sum amounts rather than in detail, violate the state Sunshine Amendment's requirement to fully disclose financial interests.

While releasing information on his holdings Monday, Scott defended the use of a blind trust by an officeholder, saying it "avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest for an elected official, protects the people of Florida from an elected official making decisions based on personal finances, and is recommended by the Florida Commission on Ethics for this reason."

Scott's assets include a $13.1 million home in Naples and a $1.5 million home on 60 acres in Montana.

The 188 pages of tax returns for 2010-12 were posted on his campaign website and cannot be downloaded, printed or searched.

The returns itemize nearly $1 million in charitable contributions over the three years, including an annual contribution of $20,000 to the G.W. Bush Foundation, which helped build the former president's library and museum. Scott gave $132,000 to Naples Community Church, which he helped found in 2006.

Scott's 2010 tax returns show he donated a building appraised at $375,000 to the city of Fulton, Ill. In 2011 he gave the Florida Governors' Mansion Foundation "a fine and decorative art collection" valued at $96,278. No addition details of those donations were available.

Other charitable contributions include $45,000 to the Oakwood School in Annandale, Va. Rick and Ann Scott visited the school in January 2011 on a trip to Washington to meeting administration and party officials. The private, non-profit school educates "bright students with learning differences."

Crist's financial disclosure statement offers the first glimpse of his assets and earnings, but not those of his wife, since he left the governor's mansion in 2011.

Crist's 2013 income included $296,722 from the Morgan & Morgan law firm and $182,933 in consulting fees from Northwest Florida development giant The St. Joe Company. He reported $50,000 in consulting fees from Coastal Construction, whose CEO Tom Murphy Jr. is the father of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Crist also reported $125,000 income from the book he co-authored about his switch from Republican to independent to Democrat and $45,588 from his state pension.


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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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