Friday, October 31st, 2014

Rick Scott, Florida's new governor

Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott and Lt. Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll wave to the crowd after Scott's acceptance speech Nov. 3, 2010.
Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott and Lt. Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll wave to the crowd after Scott's acceptance speech Nov. 3, 2010.

After a high-spending campaign with mostly his own money, Republican Rick Scott narrowly won election Nov. 2, 2010, to become Florida's next governor. Here's a look back through our fact-checking eyes at what he said, and what others said about him.

• Much of the high-volume rhetoric in Scott's campaign against Democrat Alex Sink was trading allegations of fraud. Scott's background as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain was in the foreground. Our fact-check from May 2010 on Sink's press release is the best explanation of what happened at Columbia when it faced a federal investigation of fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid. We rated Sink's claim True. The important points were 14 felony charges and $1.7 billion in fines; Scott's departure as CEO; and no charges filed against him personally.

A Florida Democratic Party ad against Scott said three of his executives at Columbia were indicted. We rated that Half True. We found four indicted; two were found guilty but their sentences were overturned on appeal. One was acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the fourth. One often-repeated claim about Scott was that he invoked the Fifth Amendment 75 times in a deposition about Columbia to avoid incriminating himself. We gave Mostly True to the number 75, but the case involved a civil suit about a contract; it wasn't about the fraud case. In a civil case, the use of the Fifth Amendment doesn't necessarily mean the person would incriminate himself if he answered, so we gave the second part of that claim a Half True.

• Faced with the onslaught of charges about his business dealings, Scott struck back with accusations about Sink's tenure as head of NationsBank's Florida operations and her term as the state chief financial officer. To his accusation that Sink funneled $770,000 in no-bid contracts to Bank of America, which acquired NationsBank, we said Barely True. And we said True to his claim that NationsBank tellers were paid kickbacks for directing customers to more-risky investments. (We noted Sink wasn't in charge of the securities sales.)

• Scott tried to keep the voters focused on his seven-step plan for 700,000 jobs in seven years. We checked his math; the proposals really added up to just 660,000 jobs.  That's still a large number of jobs, and we gave him a Mostly True. In touting his reputation for business acumen, Scott noted that Florida ranks 45th of the 50 states in regulatory climate for businesses. We found one study that backs up that ranking, but two others that put Florida substantially higher. We gave him Half True.

• When it came to the federal stimulus plan, Scott told reporters it had not created a single private-sector job. We tracked down a list of more than 1,000 Florida employers who agreed to create jobs using stimulus money. We also found a company in which Scott holds a minority stake, at 15 percent. The company sent out press releases announcing the creation of 1,300 jobs using stimulus money. We gave him a Pants on Fire for that one.

• His running mate, Jennifer Carroll, also earned a Pants on Fire for her claim that Scott had no ties to lobbyists. Again, it didn't take long to show otherwise. Lobbyists had donated to Scott's campaign and held fundraisers on his behalf, and he hired his own lobbyists for companies he ran in the state.

• One of our favorite claims about Scott came from state party chairman John Thrasher, who claimed the GOP would be the first party "to elect a bald guy to governor" in Florida. After spending so much time on serious policy questions, we couldn't resist. Good theory, but it's False. Nathaniel Reed, our 15th governor and the ninth since statehood, wins the prize for first bald guy in the governor's office.

We had much more on Scott during this long campaign, including eight True or Mostly True, six Half or Barely True, and six False or Pants on Fire rulings. We will be following him as he moves into the governor's mansion.