A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

McCollum’s Misleading Accusations


There’s more misinformation in the ugly Florida governor’s race, this time from Attorney General Bill McCollum. He claims his GOP primary opponent Rick Scott "personally" got millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds.

The ad, titled “Inner Tube,” says: “Scott tried to hide the fact that he personally bagged millions from the Obama stimulus.” That refers to $63 million in stimulus funding that went to a company named XFone, to expand broadband service to rural areas. But the money did not go to Scott "personally" as the ad claims.
 
It’s true that Scott is a major shareholder of the telecommunications company. He owned just under 18 percent of the firm’s common stock, according to a filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March (on page 96). It’s also true that the price of the company’s stock rose sharply after the stimulus funds were announced on March 4. The stock closed at 75 cents per share on March 3, but shot up to $1.12 on the day of the announcement, and went even higher in the days following.
 
That’s a benefit to Scott, to be sure. But so far only on paper. According to the very source cited by McCollum’s ad, an article in the St. Petersburg Times, Scott had not sold any of his XFone stock.
St. Petersburg Times, July 3: Scott did not sell any of his shares before the end of 2009, and has not sold any shares since, said XFone spokesman John Nesbett.
So as of July 3 at least, Scott had yet to realize penny of profit from the stimulus funds, let alone "personally" bagging "millions." If Scott has sold stock since, we’re not aware of it. Our calls to XFone were not returned.
 
Medicare Fraud
 
The ad also claims of Scott: “His company defrauded Medicare and taxpayers while he pocketed $300 million.” That’s true. Scott’s company, Columbia/HCA, paid a record $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud for practices that took place while he was its chief executive officer. It is also true that when Scott left the company he received $300 million in stock and options.
 
But the ad goes too far when it accuses Scott of "ripping off taxpayers." The fact is, Scott was not charged personally and says he wasn’t even questioned during the investigation. According to the Miami Herald, Scott issued a statement saying:

Rick Scott: An army of federal investigators spent seven years examining every aspect of this case. If they found any merit in these allegations . . . they would have certainly charged me, or at the very least questioned me — neither of which ever happened.

In a July 6 item we defended McCollum when the Scott camp falsely claimed that he supported "abortion providers." This time McCullom is the one twisting the facts, falsely claiming Scott "personally" got millions in taxpayer money, and trying to convict him of a fraud when he wasn’t even officially accused.

-Michael Morse