“Either [Rick Scott] was incompetent and knew nothing of the massive fraud under way at his own company, or he was indeed complicit in the crime. Either way, he should be disqualified from being governor of the state of Florida.”
Those were the words written in an Aug. 9 editorial by the conservative West Palm Beach-based news organization Newsmax when it endorsed Rick Scott’s Republican primary opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum. On Oct. 12, Newsmax donated $100,000 to a 527 group solely associated with Scott, Let’s Get to Work, according to donor disclosures released Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Newsmax endorsed Scott with no mention of the Medicare and Medicaid fraud committed at Columbia/HCA when Scott was the company’s CEO. The editorial lists fraud perpetrated at NationsBank (now Bank of America) when Alex Sink — the Democratic nominee in the gubernatorial race — was an executive there as a reason not to vote for her, even though the lawyer prosecuting the case said she played no role in the impropriety. ”Be sure to vote and be sure to vote for the future of conservative values nationally by voting for Rick Scott,” wrote Newsmax in the Oct. 19 editorial.
Scott is in a close race with Florida CFO Sink, but lingering questions about the U.S. government’s fine of $1.7 billion against Columbia/HCA for Medicare and Medicaid fraud in 1997 when Scott was CEO have made it difficult for him to shore up Republican voters. An Oct. 13 Public Policy Polling survey showed that of the 13 percent of voters who claimed to be undecided, the majority are likely Republican voters (60 percent of those undecideds said they voted for John McCain in 2008), though only 3 percent of them said they view Scott favorably. Forty-seven percent of them viewed Scott unfavorably.
Scott has received 14 six-figure donations from individuals, committees and investment funds, in addition to $11.3 million from a revocable trust in his wife’s name. His associated 527 group has also received donations from lawmakers’ committees and vested interests, from health care to sugar, that — like Newsmax — aggressively backed McCollum. However, this is his first donation from a media organization.
Newsmax is a profitable conservative outlet. It is expected to have revenues of $50 million in 2010. An average of 4.6 million people visit its site every month, according to Quantcast. Newsmax has published multiple articles about President Obama’s birth certificate, and even published one article suggesting a military coup against President Obama as a “last resort” that was later removed from the site.
On the Florida governor’s race, Newsmax published multiple articles suggesting that Rick Scott was unfit to be governor of Florida. Articles such as:
- Fla.’s Rick Scott invested in firm with ties to illegal aliens (June 24)
- Rick Scott’s role in the largest ripoff of taxpayers in the history of Medicare and Medicaid (June 27)
- Rick Scott’s firm sued 10 times, candidate described as ‘ruthless’ (Aug. 5)
Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy also hosted a fundraiser for McCollum that featured Scott critic and former President Clinton adviser Dick Morris at a Palm Beach hotel, according to an invitation obtained by Media Matters. Ruddy has also donated $66,600 to mostly Republicans and Republican campaign committees this cycle, with a few exceptions such as Sen. Joe Liberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. (The American Independent has left a message for Newsmax requesting comment.)
“Scott already has spent more than $40 million in an attempt to obfuscate his own record and buy the governorship,” wrote Newsmax in their negative Aug. 9 editorial. Regardless, in yesterday’s editorial, Newsmax wrote, “For the Republicans to defeat President Obama, it is crucial for the GOP to hold on to the Florida governorship in 2010.”
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.