For its first TV ad in the 2014 governor’s race, the Florida Democratic Party confronts Gov. Rick Scott’s lingering sore spot: Medicare fraud.
“Maybe you’ve heard about what was the largest Medicare fraud in history, committed when Rick Scott was a CEO,” according to the 30-second ad titled “Answers.”
“Or that Scott’s company paid record fraud fines of one-point-seven billion dollars.”
During the heated 2010 elections, Rick Scott’s GOP rival, followed by his Democratic opponent, made every effort to inform citizens of the fine levied on Columbia/HCA in 1997, a hospital company built by Scott.
Scott’s campaign, as well as the Florida GOP, wants to leave the past behind, choosing to focus something more current: Florida jobs created under Scott’s watch as governor, versus hundreds of thousands of jobs lost under former Gov. Charlie Crist between 2007 and 2011, writes Marc Caputo in the Miami Herald.
Crist is Scott’s likely Democratic opponent this fall.
The new ad, unveiled as statewide candidates begin officially qualify for office this week, provides a glimpse of the mostly negative campaigning Floridians can expect to come this summer.
“Floridians need a governor who they can trust will wake up every day to fight for the middle class,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement. “As a CEO, Rick Scott oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in American history at the expense of patients, seniors, and taxpayers. As governor, Scott has broken our trust again, cutting education to pay for tax giveaways and special deals for the wealthiest Floridians, his political contributors, and special interests.
“The Florida Democratic Party is making sure middle class Floridians know why Rick Scott can’t be trusted to fight for them in a second term — just look at his record.”
In response, the Republican Party of Florida pointed out that Crist received financial support from “convicted Ponzi” scammer Scott Rothstein, as well as his appointment of Jim Greer as head of the state GOP, who was sentenced later for fraud— while Crist was a Republican.
“If Charlie Crist wants to talk about trust and ethics, just ask him about his felon friends who said Crist had direct knowledge of their illegal and unethical behavior,” RPOF communications director Susan Hepworth told the Miami Herald. “Or, you can ask the voters that he lied to for many as a Republican, or the Democrats he now claims to be telling the truth to.”
Scott already spent $13 million on TV — much of it blasting Crist, who is lagging behind in responding.
The money behind the Democrats’ ad buy is not immediately apparent, Caputo says. “Six figures,” is what one Democrat says. Statewide ad buys are often in the $1 million a week neighborhood to have an effect. Democrats say that spending should increase in the next few weeks.
This ad – which is also online at YouTube — will air in three high-profile markets: Tampa Bay, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
For Democrats, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market is a safely Democratic area, and one that is too expensive for a media buy right now. Since the ad is running in Crist’s home base of Tampa Bay, suggests that Rick Scott’s spending is paying off and the focus it to hold the incumbent to poll below 45 percent.
Scott has polled weakly ever since taking office in 2011, something difficult for an incumbent in a state with an improving economy. Democrats are looking for continued success in burning Scott’s Medicare-fraud story in the minds of voters.
In 2010, Scott received the fewest votes of five other Republican statewide officeholders — such as Sen. Marco Rubio, who won a three-way race between Crist (then an independent) and Democratic Miami State Rep. Kendrick Meek.
“Answers” focuses on Scott pleading his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during the federal investigation of Columbia/HCA, as well as video footage of Rick Scott, noticeably younger, testifying in another deposition involving hospitals Central Florida hospitals.
“Seventy-five times, Scott refused to answer questions because – if he had – he might admit to committing a crime,” the ad goes. “A troubling past. And now Rick Scott is our governor.”