Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Half-True
Climate
Rick Scott took $200,000 from a family that leased land for drilling "and now he is trying to hide from it."

NextGen Climate on Friday, August 22nd, 2014 in a TV ad

NextGen ad says Rick Scott trying to 'hide from' donation related to drilling project

NextGen Climate attacked Gov. Rick Scott in an ad related to drilling project

NextGen Climate has unleashed another attack on Gov. Rick Scott as it relates to a drilling project that the state ultimately shut down.

"The Collier family, owners of the company that leased their land for oil exploration to the drillers that threatened drinking water for seven million Floridians," stated the narrator in the TV ad. "Rick Scott took $200,000 from them and now he is trying to hide from it. Sound familiar?"

At that point, the screen shows a photo of Scott while the text states, "He took the 5th 75 times."

The ad then replays video footage of Scott at a 1995 legal deposition saying, "I don’t recall. I have no idea. What’s your question?"

PolitiFact Florida previously fact-checked a NextGen ad about that $200,000 donation, rating it Half True. And we have fact-checked a Florida Democratic Party ad about Scott taking the 5th 75 times and rated it Mostly True. Scott's pleading the 5th was related to a Medicare case, though, not oil drilling. 

But this new ad tacked on another allegation that we will fact-check here: Is Scott trying to hide from this donation?

The Colliers’ land and their donation

Checking whether Scott is trying to "hide from" a donation requires a bit of backstory.

In 2012, Collier Resources Co. leased about 120,000 acres of mineral rights in Collier County to Dan A. Hughes. Collier County is in Southwest Florida and includes Naples, where Scott lives. But despite residents’ protests -- including in front of Scott’s home -- the state Department of Environmental Protection in September 2013 granted Hughes a permit to inject acid deep underground to fracture the limestone.

But Hughes wanted to try a procedure that hadn’t been allowed in Florida in the past. In December 2013, Hughes went ahead and used that procedure even though DEP had asked it to hold off. That led the department to fine Hughes and later file a lawsuit, which Hughes is fighting.

The Collier family is not a party to the lawsuit. Nor is Scott in his personal capacity. 

Why does this all matter for the ad? Because four members of the Collier family -- Barron, Miles, Parker and Thomas -- each gave $50,000 to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee in January 2013. This led NextGen’s to allege in its previous ad that Scott was too cozy with oil interests:

"A dangerous new type of oil drilling near the Everglades threatened drinking water for 7 million Floridians," part of the ad states. "But one Floridian is benefitting. Rick Scott drank from a fountain of campaign cash from the company that profited off pollution."

The text on the screen states: "Rick Scott $200,000 from oil interests."

The ad didn’t mention Hughes, the oil drilling company, or the Colliers, the landowners who gave the donations, by name. Because the ad lacked those specifics, and because no pollution has been found so far, we rated it Half True.

The newest NextGen ad takes this dispute a step further, saying Scott not only took the money but that "he is trying to hide from it."

That’s a reference to an argument by the Scott campaign that it didn’t take donations from Hughes. The Miami Herald reported that Scott’s campaign spokesman, Matt Moon, strongly denied NextGen’s suggestion that Scott had taken campaign cash from Hughes, the driller. "In fact, no political entity associated with Gov. Scott has ever received contributions from the company – in this election or 2010," Moon said.

The Republican Party of Florida took a similar strategy in an ad, saying "Crist’s team says Gov. Scott took contributions from this polluter. It’s total fiction. Scott didn’t take a nickel. Scott held the polluter accountable. Shut down the wells."

In fact, both sides are throwing up some fog here.

The GOP is correct that Scott didn’t take a nickel from Hughes, but NextGen’s ad didn’t say he did. In the meantime, the Republicans are omitting a key point -- that Scott did take money from the Colliers, who are connected to the project referenced in the ad because they leased the land for the drilling.

In the new ad, NextGen’s attack is somewhat careful in its wording. It didn’t say that Scott "is trying to hide it." That would have been more misleading -- these donations are a public record and Scott hasn’t done anything to restrict access to those records. Quite the contrary -- those donations have been reported by many media outlets, beginning in January 2013 when the Colliers first donated the money.

But instead, NextGen said that Scott is trying to "hide from" the donations. There’s some truth there: When attacked over the donations, Scott’s camp released a statement that was essentially a misdirection. Scott’s statement failed to acknowledge that the landowners gave Scott’s campaign money, even though Hughes didn’t.

Our ruling

A NextGen ad says Rick Scott took $200,000 from the Collier family who leased their land for oil drilling "and now he is trying to hide from it."

Actually, both sides are presenting self-interested portrayals of the truth. Scott called out NextGen for saying he had received Hughes’ money, but the group hadn’t explicitly claimed that he had, and the Scott campaign’s statement glossed over the fact that the campaign had indeed received money from Collier, a party who was integral to the drilling plan.

For its part, NextGen’s charge that Scott is trying to "hide from" the Collier donations is exaggerated. The transaction was reported publicly per standard procedure, and there is no evidence that Scott has tried to restrict access to that information. Quite the contrary -- it has been discussed widely in media reports.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. So we rate this claim Half True.