Fla.'s Rick Scott Invested in Firm With Ties to Illegal Aliens

Thursday, 24 Jun 2010 12:49 PM

By Jim Meyers

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Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott is invested heavily in a company that helps illegal aliens transfer money out of the country.

The revelation is the latest unseemly news about Republican Scott, who has portrayed himself as a political outsider who intends to clean up government.

In a staggering multimillion-dollar ad campaign, Scott has made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his platform, claiming that state Attorney General Bill McCollum is not strong enough on the issue.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, McCollum for Governor Campaign Communications Director Kristy Campbell said: “In just the latest case of hypocrisy, it was revealed today that Rick Scott has heavily invested in a company that is geared to helping illegal aliens transfer money to family and friends out of the country.

“Rick Scott says he wants to crack down on illegal immigration, but now we find out he has been profiting from illegal immigrants. While it’s clear we can’t trust anything Rick Scott or his commercials say, one thing is certain: Rick Scott is a fraud whose public image repair team won’t be able to buy the support of Florida voters.”

Scott has come under fire for his financial dealings when he was CEO of healthcare company Columbia/HCA in the 1990s. The FBI launched a multi-state probe that led to the firm’s pleading guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government.

“It was and still is the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history and ended with the hospital giant Columbia/HCA paying a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper disclosed in May.

Interestingly, Scott has not denied the accusation or his involvement in the matter, with his TV ads stating he accepts “responsibility for what happened on my watch” at Columbia/HCA.

On the immigration issue, Scott has strongly endorsed the Arizona law designed to crack down on illegal immigration, and he has run an ad depicting McCollum as an opponent of a similar law in Florida.

Although McCollum did not support the law initially, he changed his views after the law was amended to reduce the likelihood of racial profiling.

“I support Arizona’s law as amended, and if the federal government fails to secure our borders and solve the problem of illegal immigration, I would support a similar law for Florida,” McCollum said on May 13.

“Arizona leaders recently made needed changes that address concerns I had that the law could be abused and misused to perform racially profiled stops and arrests.”

The chairman of the Florida House panel on crime, Republican William Snyder, who backs an Arizona-style law for Florida, says he is endorsing McCollum for the GOP nomination for governor.

McCollum’s statement Tuesday calls attention to an article in the Orlando Sentinel disclosing that “Scott’s investment company was one of a handful of equity investors that lent $12.5 million in 2004 and 2005 to Emida Technologies.

“Emida provides electronic pre-paid services ranging from phone cards to money transfers, and focuses on Central and South American markets.

According to its website, the company also partnered with another [company] called IPP, which primarily focused on helping Hispanic migrant workers in Arizona transfer money and pay bills back in Mexico.”

The article notes a Banco de Mexico study in 2005 showing that 83 percent of the remittances into Mexico were from illegal immigrants, the vast majority coming from the United States.

The Sentinel also revealed in another article that Scott, along with a San Antonio-based immigration reform business group called Mexicans and Americans Trading Together Inc., or MATT, invested $7 million in a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Hispanic social media company called Quepasa in 2008.

MATT has taken a firm stance against the Arizona immigration law and supports a pathway to legalization for more than 12 million illegal aliens in the United States.

Scott campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said Scott “had absolutely nothing to do with MATT.”

The campaign also hit back at McCollum after his Tuesday statement, “dredging up McCollum’s lengthy list of former lobbying clients, which includes the financial firm Citigroup, AmeriDream Charity Inc., and the Mortgage Bankers Association, all of which, the Scott camp alleges, ‘enabled mortgages for illegal immigrants,’” according to the Sentinel.

But the PolitiFact.com’s Truth-O-Meter site reported: “There are no specific examples we could find or Scott could provide that McCollum's three clients did so when he was their lobbyist. We rate this claim False.”

McCollum also said in the Tuesday statement: “While Rick Scott pours millions of his own dollars — money made from ripping off taxpayers — into public image repair commercials, it is becoming clearer every day that his rhetoric doesn’t match his record.

“Rick Scott says he wants to hold government accountable just like he did in business. Except, under his watch, his company orchestrated the biggest Medicare fraud scheme in American history. He says he’s pro-life, but now we find out he profited from abortions and owns a pharmacy chain in California that sells the morning-after pill.”

The race is continuing to heat up, with another eight weeks until the Aug. 24 primary.

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