By Steve Bosquet and Kathleen McGrory, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Prodded by a pointedly personal TV ad by Gov. Rick Scott, Charlie Crist released a decade’s worth of tax returns Thursday, but it was old news that mainly reinforced Crist’s frugal reputation.
The Democratic candidate for governor released tax returns for 2001 through 2010 and promised many more years to come, but the first batch held no revelations.
That’s because Crist had released the same tax returns every year during the decade where he held the three statewide elected positions of education commissioner, attorney general and governor. The returns were reported on at the time and have been sitting in the files of the Commission on Ethics.
“Charlie releasing tax returns he has already released instead of making the returns of him and his spouse public is a joke,” said a spokeswoman for Scott’s campaign, Jackie Schutz.
Crist refuses to release the tax returns of his wife Carole, who files separately, runs a family costume and novelty business, and owned a luxury condominium on Miami’s Fisher Island that was offered for sale at $3.7 million three years ago.
Crist took offense at Scott’s TV ad that showed Carole Crist and accused him of “hiding.”
“She’s not the candidate. I am,” Crist said.
Scott noted that three previous candidates for governor, Alex Sink, Bill McBride and Jeb Bush, released their spouses’ tax information (Sink and McBride were married).
Scott and his wife, Ann, last week released joint tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Scott’s most recent net worth is $132.7 million, and the returns show a vast investment portfolio with holdings in such familiar companies as Bristol Myers Squibb, Wells Fargo and Tandy Brands.
Crist, who as governor created the Office of Open Government, is incensed that Scott claims to be more transparent.
On Thursday, Crist promised to release more tax returns dating to 1991, “before Rick Scott even lived in Florida, and before Scott was forced to plead the fifth 75 times to avoid self-incrimination,” Crist’s campaign said.
Crist, a bachelor for eight of those 10 tax years released Thursday, lived on his state salary and nurtured a tidy nest egg that included an IRA, a Fidelity brokerage account and state deferred compensation.
By 2006, he had paid off a car note, was debt-free and did not own a home.
His returns show no contributions to charities and, in 2003, he reported taking a hit on a stock purchase of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant. He reported a capital-gains loss of $14,000.
After Crist left office and lost a 2010 U.S. Senate bid, his income quadrupled in one year from $135,000 in his last year as governor to $590,000 in 2011, his first year as a rainmaker at the Morgan & Morgan law firm, in addition to consulting fees.
Crist released his tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013 last week when he filed papers to run for governor.
He released his older tax returns at a time when his candidacy has hit a particularly rough patch. Earlier this week, he scrapped plans to visit Cuba, saying he had to devote his full attention to the campaign.
At the same time, a mysterious third-party group called Progressive Choice Florida is spending $50,000 on radio ads that portray Crist as an enemy of African-Americans because, as a Republican, he supported tougher sentencing laws and chain gangs for prisoners, and opposed stricter handgun regulations.
In response, a group of black elected and appointed officials defended Crist from what they called “despicable race-baiting” and called on Scott to denounce the ads.
“Rick Scott needs to take responsibility for these disgusting ads and put a stop to them —now,” said the group , which included Reps. Alan Williams and Shevrin Jones, former Sen. Tony Hill and Quincy Police Chief Walt McNeil, who headed two state agencies when Crist was governor.
Progressive Choice claims it’s a left-leaning group that opposes Crist because of his past support for conservative causes.
“This has been a remarkably sad week in this race,” Crist campaign manager Omar Khan said in a statement, citing the fact that Scott’s TV ad on taxes criticized Crist for not releasing his wife’s returns. “Rick Scott made it very clear a year ago he intended to run a nasty personal campaign and, for once, he’s been true to his word.”
Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.