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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman August 28, 2014

NextGen ad says Rick Scott trying to 'hide from' donation 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."

Featured Fact-check

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.

Our Sources

NextGen Climate, "Return the money" TV ad and backup for the ad, Aug. 22, 2014

NextGen Climate, "Hiding" TV ad, Aug. 22, 2014

Sun-Sentinel, "Drilling fervor raises concern," Accessed in Nexis, July 13, 2014

Collier Resources Co, Website, Accessed Aug. 27, 2014, "Florida fracking fracas," Aug. 14, 2014

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Scott displays poor memory penchant for parsing words," Oct. 18, 2010

PolitiFact, "NextGen ad says Rick Scott takes money from polluters," Aug. 15, 2014

PolitiFact, "PAC accuses Rick Scott of letting Duke fleece customers," Aug. 15, 2014

PolitiFact, "Rick Scott took the 5th Amendment 75 times, Democratic party ad says," June 17, 2014

NextGen Climate, "Fountain" TV ad, Aug. 11, 2014

Republican Party of Florida, "Fiction" TV ad, Aug. 11, 2014

Florida Department of Environmental Protection,"Consent order with Dan A. Hughes," April 2014

Florida Department of Environmental Protection,"Letter from DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. to Dan A. Hughes company and Collier Resources Co," June 18, 2014

Florida Department of Environmental Protection press release, "DEP continues holding Dan A. Hughes accountable," July 9, 2014

Florida Department of Environmental Protection,"DEP revokes Dan A. Hughes’ companies permits and files lawsuit in Collier County," July 18, 2014

Collier Resources Company, Website, Accessed Aug. 12, 2014

Florida Division of Elections, Donations by Miles, Parker, Barron and Thomas Collier to Let’s Get to Work political committee, January 2013

Center for Responsive Politics, Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups, 2010

Naples Daily News, "Estates residents alarmed by letter about possible neighborhood evacuation,"April 27, 2013

News Press, "Golden Gate Estates resident objects to proposed oil wells," Accessed in Nexis, April 27, 2013

Naples Daily News, "DEP gives OK for oil drilling in Golden Gate Estates," Accessed in Nexis, Sept. 20, 2013

Naples Daily News, "Special Report: Oil drilling company has leased 115,000 acres, including land under dozens of homes," Accessed in Nexis, Oct. 27, 2013

Naples Daily News, "DEP letter to Dan Hughes co outlines outlines required steps to restore public confidence," July 3, 2014

Naples Daily News, "DEP revokes Hughes Collier-Hogan well permit," July 18, 2014

Sun-Sentinel, "Fracking-like drilling near Everglades raises alarms," May 10, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Permit for oil drilling near homes and panther refuge stirs uproar," Oct. 6, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Scott’s links to oil driller attacked," Accessed in Nexis, June 15, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Oil company won’t drill more wells," July 12, 2014

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Charlie Crist flies to enviro press conference -- on jet of developer fined for pollution," July 25, 2014

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Steyer’s NextGen climate blasts Scott in one-two ad punch over Everglades, Duke Energy," Aug. 8, 2014

NPR, "Florida County goes to court over ‘acid fracking’ near Everglades," July 2, 2014

Newsweek, "Oil prospectus seek their next big strike in South Florida’s Everglades," Feb. 27, 2014

PolitiFact Scott-O-Meter, Explore the expansion of domestic drilling in a safe environmentally-sound way, Last update Oct. 2, 2013

PolitiFact, "Rick Scott signed a law to give politicians ‘an easy way to avoid disclosing their personal finances,’ Nelson says," June 23, 2014

St. Peters Blog, "NextGen not backing down after attacking Rick Scott," Aug. 12, 2014

Collier County Government, History, Accessed Aug. 27, 2014

Interview, David Blackmon, spokesman for Dan A. Hughes, Aug. 27, 2014

Interview Tiffany Cowie, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Aug. 27, 2014

Interview, Suzanne Henkels, spokeswoman for NextGen Climate, Aug. 27, 2014

Interview, Bobby Whithorne, spokesman for NextGen Climate,  Aug. 22, 2014

Interview, Priscylla M Oliva, Executive Assistant Barron Collier Companies, Aug. 12, 2014

Interview, Greg Blair, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, Aug. 12, 2014

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

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