Florida Democrats revive Rick Scott's tarnished past at Columbia/HCA


During the 2010 race for governor, Democrats made an issue out of the fact that in Rick Scott's previous career as the CEO of Columbia/HCA, the hospital company was fined a record $1.7 billion for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

And while it might have had an impact, it didn't stop Scott from defeating Democrat Alex Sink.

But with an extremely competitive contest later this year between Scott and (presumably) Charlie Crist that polls show to be a virtual tie, why not revive the issue again, and maybe catch some registered voters who don't recall that storyline?

Calling it "our first salvo into reminding people who Rick Scott really is," Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux held a brief conference call Monday morning to introduce a new ad called "75 Times" — referring to the number of times Scott pleaded the 5th Amendment in a deposition regarding the case.

Admitting that this ad is a "bit of a throwback for us," Arceneaux said that Scott, "like so many people we've seen in his administration," was forced to resign under a cloud during a scandal. "Except unlike Florida's middle class, he walked away with a $10 million Golden Parachute."

Arceneaux said that during his three years plus as governor, Scott has steered "millions" of taxpayer dollars to wealthy campaign contributors. When asked to specify, he mentioned Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance, which donated over $100,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and Scott's re-election campaign, and soon after signed a contract with Citizens Insurance that could net the company $52 million.

It should be noted that, although political reporters are writing about this ad, nobody who doesn't read political blogs probably will, since it's only airing online, not on broadcast television. So far the Charlie Crist campaign has been frugal with its financial resources, which are considerably less than Team Scott's, and refraining from airing any television ads to this point. 

You could call that prudent, since at worst most polls have the race as a tie. But you could also say that the $12 million that Scott has poured into TV advertising in 2014 has brought him back from what had been around a 6 or 7-point deficit into a legitimate toss-up.

But it's also extremely early in the general election campaign, something Arceneaux stressed when asked when the Democrats would begin airing television ads. 

When a reporter said the Scott re-elect team's likely response was that the question was raised in 2010 and answered with his victory, Arceneaux said in fact that wasn't the case. "He's never given an explanation about what happened here, and done nothing but dock and dodge...so we would love for him to give a full explanation about what actually happened with HCA, but that's never going to happen." 

The RPOF did respond shortly after the call, but did not directly respond to the Dems' web ad. Instead, newly installed party chairwoman Leslie Dougher took Charlie Crist to task for his comments that raising tuition rates when he was governor was the right thing to do. Rick Scott is about to make this a big issue in the gubernatorial campaign.

"Charlie Crist continues to try and gloss over his failed record by saying that raising tuition and raising taxes was ‘the right thing to do,'" she said in a statement. "We have news for Charlie — putting college out of reach and raising taxes on Floridians is never the right thing to do. And continuing to support Obamacare, which has caused seniors to lose their doctors, will never be the right thing for Florida."

Here's the RPOF's new web ad on this issue:

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