TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire former businessman who dipped into his own fortune last year to help his re-election campaign, continues to get wealthier.
Scott filed annual financial disclosure forms with the state late Tuesday showing his net worth rose to nearly $147 million, a jump of nearly 11 percent over 2013.
The Republican governor's financial dealings have prompted lawsuits and criticism that he has not given an accurate portrait of his wealth. But so far Scott and his attorneys have won every legal battle and his aides have maintained the criticisms were politically motivated.
His latest financial disclosure form shows that Scott owns a home in Naples worth more than $15 million; a vacation home and land in Montana worth nearly $1.5 million; and a blind trust worth nearly $128 million that does not list its individual assets. Scott does not accept a state salary as governor but he earned nearly $10 million last year from his investments.
Scott's net worth grew even though both he and his wife together donated nearly $13 million to the Republican Party of Florida during the final month of his re-election campaign. Scott narrowly won a second term over former Gov. Charlie Crist.
During his first run in 2010, Scott released his tax returns and a lengthy list of business holdings. But shortly after taking office, he received permission from the state's ethics commission to set up a blind trust to remove direct control over his finances and avoid allegations of conflicts.
Legislators in 2013 passed a law authorizing blind trusts but it was challenged by a lawsuit. Jim Apthorp, a former aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, maintained the law violated a constitutional amendment requiring elected officials to disclose their financial dealings. The lawsuit was rejected by both a circuit court and an appeals court. The state Supreme Court in May said it would not consider the case.
While the lawsuit was pending last year Scott dissolved the trust and released his joint tax returns with wife, Ann Scott, that gave a much broader financial picture. The tax returns showed that the Scott family earned millions more than the governor reported he earned individually. Scott then created a new blind trust that is run by the same long-time business associate who has managed his finances.
A second lawsuit filed last October maintained that Scott is flouting the 2013 law because filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show he had substantially larger holdings in several companies than he reported to the state. The lawsuit contended that trusts separate from Scott's blind trust are investing in the same companies, and that the SEC forms connect the multiple trusts to Scott.
Scott's lawyers have called the lawsuit "misleading" and they have explained the SEC filings and state filings are different primarily due to the involvement of Ann Scott. Florida law does not require spouses of elected officials to reveal their financial holdings.
A circuit court judge late last month ruled that Scott's finances should be reviewed by the state's ethics commission first before the lawsuit can proceed. Don Hinkle, the attorney who worked on the lawsuit, said significant questions remain about Scott's dealings. He noted, for example, the trust has shares in the company that owns the jet Scott uses. Hinkle said they would not sell his jet without asking Scott first.
"It's not like he's uninvolved in his investment decisions," Hinkle said. "It's not like there is an arm's length transaction."
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