The headliners of qualifying, of course, were Scott and his most likely Democratic foe, former Gov. Charlie Crist. Both officially got in the race Monday — no surprise there — and filed personal financial disclosures that shed a little bit of light on their wealth.
And Scott, far wealthier than Crist, tried to flip the script from the 2012 campaign, when President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies hammered on GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s reluctance to release tax returns giving details on Romney’s personal fortune.
Scott, a former health-care executive, released of three years of tax returns, and challenged Crist to do the same.
“I hope that Charlie Crist will follow our lead and take the same steps today by releasing his and his spouse’s tax returns,” Scott said. “His immediate public production of these tax returns for 2011 and 2012 is important to provide the people of Florida the transparency they deserve.”
The actual net worth that Scott disclosed was more money than most Floridians are likely to see in their lifetimes: $132.7 million as of the end of 2013, up from $83.8 million a year earlier.
Crist is no pauper; while his tax returns aren’t out yet, he had to file a financial disclosure showing he’s now worth almost $1.3 million after earning $712,780 last year.
In a statement, Crist’s campaign said he would release “way more financial records than Rick Scott.” That didn’t stop the GOP from starting a website counting how long it had been since Scott issued the challenge.
To pull off the disclosure, Scott ended a blind trust he formed in 2011 and publicly listed his investments, then placed them into a new blind trust.
“I think it’s incumbent for a governor to have their assets in a blind trust,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “By not knowing what assets, and having an outside professional run those assets, you don’t have either the appearance or the conflict of interest by knowing what is in the blind trust.”
The law allowing Scott to use a blind trust was in court Thursday, as an attorney for Jim Apthorp, former chief of staff to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, argued that the use of blind trusts violates disclosure requirements under the state’s Sunshine Amendment.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper didn’t rule on the challenge. The outcome of the case could hinge on whether Apthorp has “standing” — a legal basis — to bring a lawsuit.
“That’s the one that obviously troubles the judge, so it’s got to trouble us as well,” said Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, Apthorp’s attorney. “But if not Jim Apthorp, who?”