Dysfunctional FEC ends Rick Scott probe, but not before its lawyers found ‘reason to believe’ Scott broke the law and lied

Rick Scott probe
The top of last week’s email newsletter from Sen. Scott’s office

By Dan Christensen,

Sen. Rick Scott’s emailed Week in Review for last week pushed for regime change in Cuba and Venezuela, bashed “Joe Biden’s reckless spending spree’’ and touted a resolution he co-sponsored “honoring the lives lost in the Surfside tragedy.”

What Scott neglected to mention was the lashing he received Thursday from the Federal Election Commission’s nonpartisan General Counsel’s Office, which found reason to believe that during his 2018 run for Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, Scott rather brazenly broke the law and essentially called him a liar.

You’ll recall Scott won that race by a thin margin of just 10,033 votes out of nearly 8.2 million cast.

But those tentative findings are as far as the FEC went in pursuit of Scott. The long dysfunctional commission voted 3-3 to dismiss the allegations against Scott’s candidacy and to find no reason to believe that the political action committee he chaired, New Republican, violated the act’s soft money ban. The vote was three Republicans for dismissal and two Democrats and an Independent commission member voting to find reason to believe Scott broke the law. Further, the deadlock rejected the General Counsel’s recommendation that it be allowed to further investigate, and issue subpoenas if necessary, to examine Scott and New Republican’s activities on his behalf.

“While this outcome is unfortunate it was hardly unexpected,” wrote two Democrats who voted to further investigate, Chairwoman Shana Broussard and member Ellen Weintraub. “For more than a decade, since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, there has been a rise in complaints involving allegations of candidates flouting the Commission’s rules by outsourcing early campaigning to outside political committees. Scott’s conduct is a variation on that theme – in this case, finding a dormant PAC and commandeering it for his purposes. No matter the iteration, it is a violation of the soft money restrictions, deprives the public of valuable campaign information, and merited further review by the Commission.”

Rick Scott probe

The law Sen. Scott, the PAC and its treasurer, ex-Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins, allegedly violated was the Federal Election Campaign Act, which bans federal candidates from collecting so-called “soft money” unless it is subject to the act’s “limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements.”

Then-Gov. Scott hadn’t declared himself a federal candidate when he raised more than $1.1 million from May to December 2017 while serving as New Republican’s chairman. The total doubled by the day Scott announced his candidacy on April 8, 2018, according to the FEC’s official 27-page report, called an MUR or Matter Under Review.

New Republican, an independent super PAC, hadn’t raised any money in several years when Scott took it over on May 11, 2017 and hired his former political staffers to run it – a full 11 months before he announced his candidacy. New Republican was eligible to raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and individuals, but was not allowed to contribute to or coordinate with parties or candidates. Individuals can contributions up to $2,900 to candidates per election.

The PAC’s declared purpose under Scott, today the nation’s wealthiest senator, was to “rebrand the way the Republican Party approaches the challenges of the future” with the goal “to make the Republican Party Great again” and support then-President Trump. But Trump never saw any of that money. “97%…were spent in support of Scott’s candidacy,” according to Broussard and Weintraub.

(The remaining $969,982.60 was spent unsuccessfully opposing Democrat Katie Porter, now a California congresswoman.)

An anti-corruption law

Federal election law was intended to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption by restricting large soft-money donations at the behest of candidates. According to the General Counsel’s report, Scott used New Republican to illegally jump start his senate campaign.

“The available information supports a reasonable inference that after Scott became the Chair of New Republican in 2017, New Republican served as a vehicle to amass funds that would benefit Scott’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, and Scott became a candidate much earlier than the date of his official announcement. Further, it appears that Scott did not step down from New Republican in December 2017, as respondents contend, but continued his involvement with New Republican well into 2018,” the report says.

As evidence, the FEC report notes that in March 2018 Scott participated in a New Republican fundraiser “in his own home,” the report says. “Although respondents contend that he was a ‘guest’ at this event, New Republican fails to explain how he could be a guest in his own home, where he provided free space to hold the event. Respondents do not deny that Scott solicited funds at this event.”

New Republican PAC began to spend money on Scott’s behalf within days of his announcement, and as money began to pour in. Between May and November 2018, the report says, the PAC spent more than $30.5 million on so-called “independent expenditures.”

In fact, “almost all of the money that New Republican spent in 2018 on independent expenditures was focused on the U.S. Senate race in Florida, with $29,538,077.40 opposing Nelson.”

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Latest comments

  • Excellent and extremely important reporting.


    Thank you,

    Jackson Rip Holmes

  • Great work Dan!

  • Rick Scott not only lied, but he also forced the murder of the Taylor County Grand Jury Foreman, Terry Trussell back in 2019. He directly and indirectly forced Taylor county to accept a high cost for the Common Core School Standards at a time they could not afford to implement it. He extorted them with a Million dollar grant for a five million dollar cost to implement and when the locals tried to call him on it, he forced the grand jury foreman with false criminal activity ultimately causing his early demise in prison. Scott is a murderer thru and thru and we can prove it. State’s Attorney, Mr. Steigmeister illegally prosecuted Terry and Judge Hankinson illegally sentenced him to 5 years in prison where he died.

  • Correction on my comment regarding States Attorney, The assholes name to go after is Willie Meigs. This dirty scumbag should be removed from the practice of law and barred forever.

  • Rick Scott should be in jail for this.

    Everyone knows it’s pure evil to stay in touch with former campaign staffers and especially to appear as a guest during a fundraiser in your own home!

    These are egregious crimes!

  • Ricky looks like ET all grown up!

  • Liars lie and cheaters cheat — so this really is a case of “dog bites man”. No surprises here.
    Thank you Bulldog for keeping the spotlight on this well-documented thief.

  • Scott winning by 10,033 votes was the result of the Broward SOE office ballot design debacle, where voters ‘overlooked’ the bottom left candidate for US Senate and left it blank (no vote cast), and Democrat Bill Nelson lost in the most heavily Democrat county in FL. Scott needs to be sent packing in 2024. If any Dems challenging Marco Rubio in 2022 fail, they have a better chance of taking out Scott in 2024.

  • Scott is a small part of the corruption. Do I have a story for you.

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