The battle for the Republican nomination for governor in Florida, pitting Attorney General Bill McCollum against businessman Rick Scott in the Aug. 24 primary, has become one of the nastiest fights in modern political history.
It is a battle that McCollum deserves to win.
McCollum is a native Floridian, solid conservative, and experienced public servant who spent 20 years in the U.S. Congress.
McCollum first went to Washington as a congressman when Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981. He has remained a steadfast Reaganite, voting consistently for lower taxes, less government spending, and a strong national defense.
Well before Sept. 11, 2001, McCollum formed the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism when so many in Washington wanted to ignore the issue.
As Florida’s attorney general, McCollum has been a fighter and has shown real leadership. After Obamacare was signed into law, McCollum didn’t hesitate. He immediately sued to stop the federal healthcare overhaul, arguing it was unconstitutional: The federal government cannot force citizens to buy private insurance.
McCollum also has pushed for a crackdown on illegal aliens. He strongly supports implementing Arizona’s tough new immigration law in Florida.
Then there is the Illinois-born and longtime Texas resident Rick Scott, who has never held elected office.
In today’s political climate that can be a good thing — except when we examine Scott’s record as a private citizen.
Scott already has spent more than $40 million in an attempt to obfuscate his own record and buy the governorship.
Despite a blizzard of ads smearing McCollum, Scott can’t change the facts about his own history.
On the campaign trail, Scott has refused to answer in-depth questions about his role at Columbia/HCA, the hospital chain he founded and where he served as CEO until the 1990s.
After an FBI investigation, Scott’s company pleaded guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government in the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history, and paid a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties, and damages.
Scott says he never knew about the fraud, nor was he ever personally charged. But he was forced out of the company after nabbing a $310 million golden parachute.
As Fox News commentator Dick Morris says, only two things about Scott can be concluded: Either he was incompetent and knew nothing of the massive fraud under way at his own company, or he was indeed complicit in the crime. Either way, he should be disqualified from being governor of the state of Florida.
But the Scott saga gets worse.
The healthcare company that Scott co-founded after leaving Columbia/HCA, Solantic — a chain of emergency clinics located in Florida — has been embroiled in 10 legal actions in the past decade, two of them involving Scott personally. One includes a lawsuit from a doctor who says Solantic fraudulently misused his medical license.
Also, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Scott is heavily invested in a company, Emida Technologies, that helps illegal aliens transfer money out of the country. Emida provides electronic prepaid services including phone cards and money transfers, and focuses on the Central and South American markets, according to the newspaper, which pointed out that 83 percent of remittances into Mexico in a recent year were from illegal immigrants.
To put a smoke screen over his own scandal and hypocrisy, Scott has been slinging mud at McCollum in the form of 30-second attack ads that run across the state ad nauseam.
Many of these ads have been simply false or, at best, disingenuous.
For example, Scott has said he supports the immigration law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona and McCollum opposes it, when McCollum in fact expressed support for the law and said he would back a similar measure in Florida.
In fact, the chairman of the Florida House panel on crime, Republican William Snyder, is backing a Florida law modeled after Arizona’s and he has emphatically endorsed McCollum.
Scott charged in a campaign mailer that McCollum had accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from lobbyists for the pro-choice group Planned Parenthood. The truth is that the lobbying firm Scott cited was not registered as a Planned Parenthood lobbyist when the firm made small donations to McCollum in 1997 and 1998.
Another Scott attack ad takes McCollum to task for his use of a state jet. But Florida is a large state and one of the longest in the nation — some 450 miles. It would take more than nine hours to travel from one end of the state to another by car.
It is difficult to believe that a businessman as savvy as Rick Scott would believe that the governor and other high state officials should spend enormous amounts of time in a car instead of engaging in official duties. In light of such criticism of Mr. McCollum, it is easy for voters to conclude that Mr. Scott will say almost anything to win.
It should not be forgotten that Florida is in the grips of a serious recession, one that afflicts the rest of the nation as well. But the state remains fiscally solvent and is not facing the budget and debt crises in states such as California and New York. One major reason Florida it is better off than so many other states is the eight years that Jeb Bush served as governor.
In Tallahassee, Gov. Bush was a tough fiscal conservative who kept spending down and state borrowing low.
Today, Jeb Bush strongly endorses Bill McCollum and says McCollum will continue his legacy when it comes to the state’s finances.
And many other leading conservatives have endorsed McCollum, including Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Phyllis Schlafly, Mitt Romney, and Michael Reagan, among others.
Newsmax joins that list and encourages its readers to vote for a man of strong character with a proven track record: Bill McCollum.
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