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Rick Scott's ties to a company have become, let's just say, the "centerfold" of a new attack being leveled by Scott's challenger for the Republican nomination for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum.
In a new campaign mailer called "The Two Faces of Rick Scott," McCollum's camp attempts to counter suggestions that Scott is a unwavering conservative with impeccable Republican credentials.
"What Rick Scott does and what Rick Scott says show the completely different faces of Rick Scott," says the mailer, which follows with examples.
"Rick Scott says he is an across-the-board conservative," the mailer says. But, "Rick Scott's company is partners with Playboy in a social networking website that has community pages specifically geared towards gay dating.
"Rick Scott: Nothing new. Something bad."
The mailer got us wondering -- Is Scott, a former health care CEO, in bed with Playboy?
McCollum spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said the company referenced in the mailer is Quepasa, which in Spanish means "what's happening." The corporation (NASDAQ: QPSA) owns Quepasa.com, which claims to be one of the world's largest Latino online communities.
The company is headquartered in West Palm Beach with offices in Miami, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Hermosillo, Mexico.
As McCollum suggested, Quepasa and Playboy began partnering in 2009 to find and identify "Cyber Chicas" for the magazine's Mexico edition. Quepasa created an online community that features models wanting to be included in Playboy. Users of the website can go to the Playboy community to vote for and rank the women. Three finalists are forwarded each month to Playboy, which selects a winner. A 24-year-old Brazilian, Fernanda Schonardie, was selected as the first "Cyber Chica" and was featured in a full-page layout in the March 2009 edition of Playboy México. The partnership has continued since (We'll skip the links).
"The Playboy México community has been a tremendous success," Quepasa CEO, John C. Abbott, said in a press release. "We've received numerous submissions from all over the globe and have recorded hundreds of thousands of impressions and votes from members. We are delighted with the campaign and anticipate ongoing growth in traffic."
Quepasa reported that the Playboy México community became the most popular community on Quepasa in just a matter of weeks and represented 28 percent of all community page views.
Quepasa.com is much more than Playboy, however. It's an online network that allows people to join discussion groups about everything -- from romance, to music, to culture and politics, to sports, to religion.
The company said that as of July it had nearly 15 million online members.
Quepasa is definitely a general interest social network, and in short appears to be trying to reach anyone who would want to talk about anything. It makes sense, then, that some of the website's online communities are geared to gays and lesbians. The company also announced in June 2010 that it was partnering with online dating service Zoosk Inc. Zoosk does offer its dating services to gay people.
What is Scott's role in Quepasa? McCollum says it's his company.
But really, Scott is an investor. According to required filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Scott controls 13.8 percent of all of the stock in Quepasa, which translates to 2 million shares. We should note that Scott himself owns just a fraction of those shares. The rest are split between a family partnership and in a trust in his wife's name. Scott also has a warrant to purchase 1 million shares (A warrant is a way to entice investors into a company, by essentially offering them a good deal to accumulate large amount of shares). Scott's stock in Quepasa is worth about $7.6 million, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
Scott began investing in the company in March 2006, according to a Quepasa press release.
"Hispanic and Latino families have a growing presence in the U.S.; Quepasa has been developing content relevant to the Hispanic community for over seven years," Scott was quoted as saying in the release. "Quepasa should be well positioned to build a viable company if it continues to innovate and deliver value to the Hispanic and Latino communities."
As an investor, Scott would have some say in the company's direction, but he doesn't own enough stock to get what he wants, whenever he wants it. He does not sit on the company's board of directors, which is an important distinction considering McCollum's original statement.
In McCollum's campaign mailer, he said, "Rick Scott's company is partners with Playboy in a social networking website that has community pages specifically geared towards gay dating." The company in question, Quepasa does partner with Playboy in an Internet venture and does have community chat rooms that cater to gays and lesbians.
But the company and the website is more than Playboy and gay dating.
It's also misleading for McCollum to say Quepasa is Scott's company, as if he were the owner, or the one making decisions. As a fourth-largest individual stockholder, he has clout, no doubt. But he's ultimately not in charge of Quepasa. (For instance the partnership with Playboy came in 2009, three years after Scott had already invested in the company). Because of those failures to be more clear with potential voters, we rate McCollum's claim Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
St. Petersburg Times, "Here's McCollum's new attack mailer," July 15, 2010
Bill McCollum campaign, e-mail interview with Kristy Campbell, July 19, 2010
Securities and Exchange Commission, Quepasa form 14a, Apri 2010
Securities and Exchange Commission, Quepasa form 10k, March 2010
Rick Scott, state filed financial disclosure, June 18, 2010
Quepasa Corp., "Group led by Richard L. Scott Investments LLC acquires interest in Quepasa Corporation," March 22, 2006
St. Petersburg Times, "What do Rick Scott and Playboy have in common?" June 16, 2010
Quepasa Corp., "First Quepasa 'Cyber Chica' to debut in March issue of Playboy Mexico," March 3, 2009
Quepasa Corp., "Quepasa launches Zoosk online dating service," June 11, 2010
Quepasa Corp., "Quepasa.com Grows Membership to 15mm Users," July 1, 2010
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