The Bill McCollum campaign has responded angrily to ads run by his GOP gubernatorial rival Rick Scott that seek to link McCollum to indicted former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer.
In an e-mail sent on Sunday, two days before Tuesday’s Florida primary, the McCollum campaign stated: “Topics in the press today can be summed up as ‘Newspaper ads, depositions and desperation: The Rick Scott Story.’ No, it’s not a movie on Lifetime or Oxygen. It’s Rick Scott’s closing argument to Florida voters.
“In the last week, Rick Scott has sunk to sinking millions of his Columbia/HCA golden parachute into desperate ads trying to link Bill McCollum to indicted former RPOF [Republican Party of Florida] chair Jim Greer (who Bill McCollum helped throw out of office). Today, he took to Florida’s major daily newspapers, buying expensive full page ads to press the same ridiculous claim.”
Greer was arrested on June 2 after being indicted on six felony charges: organized scheme to defraud, money laundering, and four counts of grand theft. Prosecutors alleged that Greer, while chair of the Florida GOP, schemed to take over $100,000 from the party through a fundraising company he created, Victory Strategies LLC, and then used the money for his personal expenses.
Scott bought full-page ads in seven major Florida newspapers on Sunday that asked: “What is McCollum hiding?” Scott asserts that McCollum helped Greer — who was ousted as RPOF chairman — hide financial irregularities. One paper, the St. Petersburg Times, refused to run the ad.
Scott made the same allegation in a 30-second televisions spot that began airing recently. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, called the ad misleading and false and asked that it be removed.
“The truth is that Bill McCollum’s leadership is part of what led to the removal of Jim Greer. This ad distorts the facts and was clearly created without any knowledge of what actually took place.”
John Thrasher, who replaced Greer as chairman of the RPOF, charged that “Rick Scott has orchestrated a multifaceted campaign of misinformation in an effort to mislead Florida voters.
“The ads placed in newspapers this weekend, television advertisements and the stream of mail sent to voters by Mr. Scott alleging that Attorney General Bill McCollum acted inappropriately throughout the investigation, arrest and indictment of Jim Greer are untrue.”
The McCollum campaign e-mail points to an investigation of Scott’s claims by Politifact, which assesses the veracity of campaign ads and other political statements.
Politifact concluded that the Scott ad “says that McCollum ‘backed Jim Greer’s effort to hide financial irregularities.’ There’s no evidence that we find or that the Scott campaign provided that McCollum had any knowledge of Greer’s Victory Strategies contract, or any evidence that McCollum attempted to stop a criminal investigation once an RPOF audit revealed potential fraud.
“We rate Scott’s claim False.”
The e-mail also noted that 11 of Florida’s biggest newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, have endorsed McCollum.
“The fact that Scott refused to meet with any editorial boards presumably had something to do with it,” the St. Petersburg Times observed.
The McCollum e-mail states: “Interesting Rick Scott can buy newspaper space, but can’t manage to sit down for an hour with editorial boards. Guessing he was trying to avoid talk of secret (and public) depositions.”
Scott has rebuffed calls for the release of a videotaped deposition he gave in August 2009 in regard to a lawsuit filed by Dr. P. Mark Glencross, a former employee of Scott’s healthcare firm Solantic Urgent Care.
Dr. Glencross stated in the lawsuit that he left Solantic in 2004 after he discovered incidents of “unauthorized misappropriation.”
At a press conference in Tallahassee on Aug. 10, Scott cut off reporters repeatedly when he was asked about the deposition, snapping: “You can ask the question 100 times and get the same answer. It’s a private matter.”
Referring to Scott’s refusal to release the Glencross deposition, McCollum said at a GOP gathering in Hillsborough County last week: “Why is he going to that much trouble? I think it’s because he’s got something to hide.”
Scott is surely aware that disclosures about Solantic could remind voters of fraudulent practices uncovered at Scott’s former company, Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest hospital chain.
In 1997, Scott was forced to resign as CEO of the firm while it was being investigated for massive Medicare and Medicaid fraud. It remains the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history and ended with Columbia/HCA paying a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages.
Scott walked away from the company with $310 million.
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