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Friday, January 18, 2019

Back when he first ran for governor of Florida as a self-styled outsider, Rick Scott lambasted his opponent in the Republican primary for taking campaign money from U.S. Sugar, one of the worst corporate polluters of the Everglades.

Scott indignantly squeaked that Bill McCollum had been “bought and paid for” by U.S. Sugar. He said the company’s support of McCollum was “disgusting.”

“I can’t be bought,” Scott declared.

Seriously, that’s what the man said. Stop gagging and read on.

Four years later, the governor’s re-election campaign is hungrily raking in money from U.S. Sugar, more than $534,000 so far.

Exactly when Scott overcame his disgust isn’t clear, but in February 2013 he and undisclosed others jetted to the King Ranch in Texas for a hog- and deer-hunting junket on U.S. Sugar’s 30,000-acre lease.

Apparently this has become a secret tribal rite for some top Florida Republicans. Exposed last week by reporters Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times, the politicians ran like jackrabbits for the hills.

All questions were redirected to the state Republican Party, which couldn’t get its story straight. “Fundraising” wound up as the official explanation for the free pig-shooting sorties.

Scott refused to field questions about the King Ranch shindig. A spokesman said the governor covered his own air flight and hunting license.

Days later, a bit more information: Scott shot a buck deer on the trip, his flack said, and paid the taxidermist out of his own pocket. What a guy!

A month after his secret safari, the governor appointed an executive of King Ranch’s Florida agricultural holdings to the board of the South Florida Water Management District, the agency supposedly supervising the Everglades cleanup.

The inner circle, you see, goes unbroken.

Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam was so mortified to be asked about his King Ranch excursions that he slithered behind a door that was then shut in a reporter’s face. Slick move. Putnam is the same social butterfly who once criticized the state law forbidding elected officeholders from accepting gifts like free trips, booze and meals. Putnam lamented that the ban was “a disincentive for fellowship.”

Thwarting the statutory gift ban has been accomplished by letting the political parties operate as money launderers for special interests. U.S. Sugar, for example, gives tons of cash to the Republican Party of Florida, which then spreads it around to Scott, Putnam and other candidates for purported political expenses.

The King Ranch, which has its own sugar and cattle holdings in Florida, has also hosted GOP House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel and Dean Cannon when he was House Speaker.

The current House Speaker, Will Weatherford, and the incoming speaker, Steve Crisafulli, have both received Texas hunting licenses, although they won’t say if they’ve been to the King spread.

Florida has an abundance of deer and wild hogs, but an out-of-state safari offers the appeal of seclusion and anonymity. Interestingly, no Republican senators or Democratic leaders appear to have participated in the King Ranch flyouts. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott’s likely opponent in November, has taken contributions from Big Sugar, but said he’s never been to the ranch.

Buying off politicians with hunting and fishing trips is an old tradition in Tallahassee, interrupted by the occasional embarrassing headline followed by flaccid stabs at reform.

Nobody believes the absurd GOP party line saying that the King Ranch hunting jaunts are “fundraisers.” They’re just free (or heavily discounted) vacations.

You really can’t blame Big Sugar or its lobbyists. They know who and what they’re dealing with; the only issue is the price.

The company has given more than $2.2 million to Republican candidates in the 2014 election cycle, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t get its money’s worth.

Taxpayers, not the sugar tycoons, remain stuck with most of the cost of cleaning up the Everglades. Every time someone tries to make the polluters pay a larger share, the idea gets snuffed in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile the politicians who could make it happen are partying in Texas with the polluters — shootin’ at critters, smokin’ cigars, sippin’ bourbon around the fire. Hell, maybe there’s even a steam bath.

These are the people controlling the fate of the Everglades. They’ve been bought and paid for, just like Rick Scott said four years ago. Now he’s one of them. His staff won’t say why he changed his mind about taking Big Sugar’s money. It also won’t say where he put the stuffed head of that buck he killed at the King Ranch.

The bathroom wall would be a fitting place, hanging right over the toilet where he flushed his integrity.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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70 responses to “Bought And Paid For With A Texas Hunting Trip”

  1. AlfredSonny says:

    What is the difference between “sponsorships” and “bribes”?

  2. ps0rjl says:

    The only difference between a prostitute and a politician is that the prostitute will admit she takes money for what she does.

  3. Billie says:

    If you’re a republican, it’s sponsorship. If you’re a Democrat it’s a bribe. According to the republicans.

  4. Dominick Vila says:

    What Gov. Scott is doing is Standard Operating Procedure for most Republican candidates. That is, you go where the money is, because without a well financed misinformation campaign their chances of re-elected are nil.
    The fact that a man like Rick Scott, a man responsible for the largest MEDICARE fraud case in U.S. history when the company he founded and chaired, Columbia HCA, was found guilty and given the largest fine for fraud in U.S. history, was elected governor is a reminder of the values and the issues that determine how Republican decide who to vote for. If people think registered Republicans will not vote for Scott because he suddenly could not resist the temptation of taking bribes from U.S. Sugar, think again. The more crooked a candidate, the more the GOP-TP likes him.

    • mike says:

      Dom, so the 2008 Crist is perfect when it comes to US Sugar. Read his book. LOL!!!
      You seem to have forgotten that Crist put on the board a Joe Collins, a major player in the agribusiness.
      As to the article it is deliberate misrepresentation or ignorance.

      • Dominick Vila says:

        Perfect? I am so disgusted at having to choose between a Tea Party crook and a Republican lite turncoat candidate that it makes me sick just thinking about it.

        • mike says:

          Typical Dom, ignore the article.
          As to crooks, only on the Republican side, Right??? Baloney!!!!
          What should make you sick is what is happening across the country from California to New England, Dem. leaders are being caught breaking the laws. Bribery, Felonies, Fraud. Hell, even Harry Reid was caught giving campaign money to a member of his family and listing it under an incomplete name so as not to show the last name as Reid. Save me the drama!!!

          How about the Democratic bastion, State of Illinois, and its great governors. 4 of the last 7 convicted and sent to prison.

          No, as long as it is a Democrat breaking the law it is fine. No outrage?

          • Dominick Vila says:

            Crooked politicians should be booted out of government, regardless of party affiliation. However, there is a difference between voting for a candidate who turns out to be a crook, and voting for someone who you know is a crook.

          • mike says:

            Scott never implicated. No charges raised against him.
            So this big, and I mean big case, and the Feds never charged him, but in your warped mind he is guilty. If they had a case they would have charged him. What, the incompetent govt. at work again. And you want a bigger govt.. No thanks!!

          • Dominick Vila says:

            The fact that our government only goes after small fish, and let’s the big guys get away with murder does not exonate people who have committed crimes or, in this case, fraud. Scott’s company, Columbia HCA was not fined $1.7B because they were nice guys.

            Columbia billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs for tests that were not necessary or ordered by physicians;

            The company attached false diagnosis codes to patient records to increase reimbursement to the hospitals;

            The company illegally claimed non-reimbursable marketing and advertising costs as community education;

            Columbia billed the government for home health care visits for patients who did not qualify to receive them. – See more at:
            Columbia billed Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs for tests that were not necessary or ordered by physicians;

            The company attached false diagnosis codes to patient records to increase reimbursement to the hospitals;

            The company illegally claimed non-reimbursable marketing and advertising costs as community education;

            Columbia billed the government for home health care visits for patients who did not qualify to receive them. – See more at:

          • Independent1 says:

            Dominick, when did this all take place? Was it during the Bush Administration?

          • Dominick Vila says:

            Scott started what was first Columbia in 1987, purchasing two El
            Paso, Texas, hospitals. Over the next decade he would add hundreds of
            hospitals, surgery centers and home health locations. In 1994, Scott’s
            Columbia purchased Tennessee-headquartered HCA and its 100 hospitals,
            and merged the companies.

            In 1997, federal agents went public with an investigation into the
            company, first seizing records from four El Paso-area hospitals and then
            expanding across the country. The investigation focused on whether
            Columbia/HCA had committed Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

            Scott resigned as CEO in July 1997, less than four months after the
            inquiry became public. Company executives said had Scott remained CEO,
            the entire chain could have been in jeopardy.”

          • Independent1 says:

            Thanks for the info! So the investigation apparently turned up wrong doing, hence the huge fine, but somehow Scott got away without being indicted for being a crook. Kind of like a number of the banks getting away with more than shady operations that resulted in the Great Recession with no one from a bank really getting held responsible for all the damage they did to America.

            Our government has got to start making examples of some of these people if we ever hope to stop a lot of the corruption that politicians and business people appear to be getting away with.

          • Dominick Vila says:

            I agree, but most importantly, people have to stop voting for people like Scott.

          • Independent1 says:

            Dominick, ignore my question – I asked before I noticed you’d included a link.

          • mike says:

            “govt goes after small fish” what a crock of dung you are spreading now.
            I never said they weren’t fined.
            Four people were convicted, one on appeal was acquitted. Not one turned on Scott, which if he was guilty, is not the norm. They went down all by themselves.
            Only in your warped eyes is he guilty. The people at the time gave him a pass, and after all this time not a peep or document to show he was guilty.
            Again, was he charged, indicted or even implicated.
            Is he that good??? I don’t think so.

          • Dominick Vila says:

            The fact that the founder and CEO of a corporation that engaged in widespread fraud, and was given the largest fine in history, was not indicted and tried, says more about our judicial system than the climate of corruption and greed that existed in his business. Insinuating that the man in charge was, somehow, an innocent bystander is something that only a radical ideologue like you can say with a straight face. The crimes committed by Columbia HCA may be inconsequential for someone like yourself, they are not for most people.

          • mike says:

            Well, a lot of people voted for him knowing his history. Talk to them about what is inconsequential.
            Did the Fed. Govt. implicate, charge, indict him? All(3) those convicted never took a plea deal to involve Scott, Why???
            Are the Feds that incompetent?? You believe he is guilty and yet you want a much bigger govt. full of all these incompetent people.

          • Dominick Vila says:

            I want a bigger government? One of the things I like the most about President Obama is his decision to reduce the size of government by not filling 700,000 vacancies available through attrition. Conversely, I despise the efforts being made by the far right to put in place an intrusive government that infringes on the rights of people.

          • mike says:

            Dom, same old lame argument on size of Govt.. What you and your ilk can’t grasp is the fact it isn’t the number of people but the rights and liberties being taken away everyday my the Fed. Govt. to control the lives of the American people.
            Now you are delusional, “the right being intrusive”? Baloney!!!! In fact you are nuts if you believe the Right is infringing on the rights of Americans and the left is just being benevolent.
            Just look at the massive new rules and regulations that have been put into place by the Obama administration. EPA war on business and individuals rights, Obamacare with no choice in coverage, etc.. Why no growth, very simple, the intrusion of the Fed. govt. in every aspect of our lives.

            Here is an article in 2012 by Jonathan Turley, a liberal, a democrat who voted for Obama.

          • Dominick Vila says:

            Are you suggesting that regulations designed to protect our environment, provide a safe environment to our workforce, and prevent abuses are expressions of oppressive government, but inserting a scope inside a woman’s vagina is perfectly acceptable?

          • mike says:

            There should always be laws in place to protect our environment to a degree but not this over the top. Destroy the coal industry, kill employment, raise our energy bill, make us less competitive in the world so we can have this feel good crap. Where’s the alternative energy source that is as cheap or cheaper. But the world goes on China, India, rest of world grows with cheaper goods and we go backward.
            Do you even listen to Business leaders and their concerns of these massive rules and regulations that stymie growth and jobs. Big Govt. is not the answer. Name one product the govt. produces that brings in revenue. There isn’t any.
            As to the rest of your post, same old crap.
            I notice you sure don’t want to touch the Turley article or the fact Big Govt. is not the number of people but control of people.

          • Dominick Vila says:

            The last thing this country needs is the e-regulation frenzy that led to the ENRON, AIG and Bernie Maddoff abuses.

            Yes, if there is regulation in place that in effective or that impair progress, it should be modified or deleted, but for the most part the regulations that are in place are beneficial to our well being. We don’t import from China because of regulations, we import their goods because
            the are cheap…and we get what we pay for.

          • Sand_Cat says:

            But of course, no GOPs do any of that, right, mike. That’s why you’re so eager to make charges about how all the Dems are doing it: to bury the GOP crimes in BS.
            I think most of us know that there are lots of crooks in politics, but that one party is a bit moreso, and increasing its advantage rapidly.

          • mike says:

            Only in your catnip brain are republicans the worst.
            I never said the Republicans are without issue, nor am I burying crimes done by the Republicans by attacking the left. One party more so than the other-Rubbish.
            You can try and ignore all the cases against your party leaders but facts are facts. At this point in time the corruption is all yours.

            The article is plain BS.

          • Independent1 says:

            Would you care to spell out just what corruption is “all yours”. What corruption are you referring to that the Dems are currently involved in?

            And this article is worthwhile just for pointing out how big a hypocrite Scott is: he’s engaging in exactly the same behavior, with exactly the same company. as what he made a big issue out of about an opponent in a previous election. If it was wrong for his opponent then to engage in a relationship with that company – it’s wrong now for Scott to be in cahoots with that company today.

          • Independent1 says:

            Sorry, I don’t indulge in right-wing wacko newspapers and websites that publish lies and distortions.

          • mike says:

            Hell, even one of your stalwart Rachel Maddow, is even asking the question.
            This is one of many across the US.
            Here’s another, at the end RI.
            Don’t forget Charlotte, NC, New Orleans, Detroit, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Chicago.
            Keep staying uninformed, unenlightened, unintelligent, and unmotivated to know the truth.
            Time to bury your head again.

          • herchato says:

            You keep saying democrats but you keep describing republicans (uniformed, unenlightened, unintelligent, unmotivated).

          • mike says:

            What a comic! You crack me up!!!
            Look in the mirror to find where the 4 UNs really are and then put your head back where it has always been where the sun doesn’t shine.

          • charleo1 says:

            Where is your outrage? All I hear is a lot of excuses. Excuses for your leaders, and their Supreme Court appointees. That consider corporations are people, and any regulation of the money now gushing into our political process, is an abridgment of the First Amend. Right to free speech. So, I must presume that perhaps you don’t agree so much with that preposterous idea, as you, like your Right Wing politicians themselves, sense the distinct advantage this gives the wealthy, and corporations over the average Americans. And that for some strange reason, you believe your best interests coincides with the best interests of people that spend more on their dog in a year, than you earn for yourself, and your family in ten. And all I’m saying
            is don’t kid yourself. Don’t be like the Confederate
            Solider that forfeited his life, so the rich plantation owner could continue the use of slave labor. When the Soldier had never owned, nor could he ever afford to own a slave. But, walked on the battlefield a dupe, over the issue of States Rights. Never considering how, even if his side were successful. These Rights would benefit him. Help him to feed his family, and give his children a better future. Don’t be a fool. When politicians of either stripe sell out, they sell us all out. And we should all be outraged at it.

          • mike says:

            Blah Blah Blah.
            Was Scott charged with a crime? Yes or NO??? Was he implicated in the investigation. Was he one of the four indicted and convicted. FYI, one got off on appeal.
            No he wasn’t. Don’t try and put words in my mouth. I have and will continue to be disappointed left or right that breaks the oath of office.
            Are you outraged that the Democratic Ad running in Florida uses false information showing Scott in a deposition from another lawsuit not connected with Fed. investigation?
            Save the outrage.
            Hey, how’s that up and comer Gov. of NY, you know his name Cuomo doing now with obstruction of justice being questioned by US attorney Bharara?

          • charleo1 says:

            Happy as a clam then? Good for you. I live in Fl. So, after 4 years under the Scott Crime Syndicate, I’m plenty outraged already. I also voted for Crist, and generally agreed with his policies. That’s before the GOP got railroaded by the ignorant T-Idiots. And why you support that garbage, I’ll never know. Since you seem fairly intelligent, it must be a case of not being able to tell which side of your bread has the butter on it. I will say this one thing. The people that own the King Ranch, and are bankrolling Scott’s reelection bid, are not voting against their best interests. So, why are you?

          • mike says:

            There you go again trying to put words in my mouth!!!
            I have no dog in the hunt. The people of Florida will have their say.
            It seems you won’t address the ad and its misrepresentation, or Crist and as his book states, “his eureka moment” with US Sugar.
            Was Scott implicated, convicted or charged???
            “Ignorant T-Idiots,” funny!!!!

          • plc97477 says:

            At least the dems pay for their crimes, The repugs get away scott free most of the time.

          • mike says:

            Is that all you got??? Now show me those that have gotten away with a crime!!! Show me members on the right that you believe are guilty, have been investigated by the Fed. Govt., and were never implicated.

          • Independent1 says:

            Kind of silly comment Mike given that a study done of lawsuits filed over the past several decades shows clearly that GOP-run states are more corrupt than Blue States. 8 of the 10 most corrupt states in America are red states:

            8 of the 10 most corrupt states are GOP-Run states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Alaska, South Dakota, Kentucky and Florida.

            And any nitwit who thinks for 1/2 a minute will realize that over the past 10 years – Republicans brought to trial for corruption purposes FAR EXCEED Democrats.

          • mike says:

            I did my research and know my numbers unlike you.
            Between 2000–2014 State and local politicians convicted of crimes. 105 Democrats convicted. 59 Republicans convicted.
            Nothing to be proud of on either side.
            But back to the article, nothing new or unusual in politics. Scott never convicted, implicated, or charged.
            Hey, how’s Obama doing with those great poll numbers. What a pathetic leader.

          • Independent1 says:

            Obama’s poll numbers have held between 44 and 50% virtually his whole time in office and they’re still in the same spot. That’s much better than Bush who was in the high 20s about this time in his 2nd term.

            Obama’s poll numbers compared to Bush’s.

          • mike says:

            Still living in the past I see! Bush is not up for reelection nor is Obama.
            This mid-term is about Obama and his failed policies and since every issue Obama is way in the negative it will be a referendum on he and his party. Rasmussen did a poll of 14 issues and all but one issue(enviroment-even) has Obama’s disapproval higher than his approval numbers.

          • Independent1 says:

            And PLC97477 pointed out why you might have more Dems brought to trial. In Blue States when a politician is caught for corruption, he’s brought to trial. Red States are so corrupt that politicians are clearly corrupt for years and never indicted; other Republican politicians are involved in corruption too and don’t want investigations done. .

          • mike says:

            Both you and PLC97477 are full of crap.
            Put up or shut up. Show the states and individuals that have been caught and not indicted or charged and still in office.
            You can do, I know you can.

          • Independent1 says:

            With a legal group doing a several decades long evaluation of corruption in American states determining that 8 of the 10 most corrupt states in America are red states, with many of those states not recording many indictments of their politicians on the record, but yet this group says those states are corrupt as it gets, makes it clear that anyone with 1/2 a brain can see that it’s Republicans who consistently look the other way when another Republican is as corrupt as sin such that many totally corrupt Republicans never get indicted for their transgressions.

          • mike says:

            Then this “legal group” should have volumes of cases/examples of corruption being ignored by the state for you to show.
            Put up or Shut up!!!!

  5. Thomas Martin says:

    And the Florida voters will continue their support of the corporate hogs and those who were bribed unless they care and study the candidates. Fat chance?

  6. longtail says:

    The citizens of Florida are happy to pick up the tab.

  7. edwardw69 says:

    Where is paulyz on this one?

  8. idamag says:

    This is Florida. You wonder about the voters. I was watching when TV was airing a show on a missing child in Florida. Never found. The were interviewing the parents, girl and boy friends of the parents, and grandparents. I don’t think there was a set of teeth for all of them and you could hardly understand what they were saying.

    • midway54 says:

      Florida is a solid extension of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, filled with the same kind of Teabagger rednecks and ignoramuses heavily concentrated north of Interstate 4. These characters through their votes have populated the legislature of Florida with a top heavy rightwing crowd of loudmouth buffoons. Additionally, the State’s rightwing caucus in the U. S, Senate and House is composed of disgusting scoundrels working tirelessly for the plutocrats.Scott seems definitely headed for defeat, and it is to be hoped that Rubio will be next to be kicked out of the Senate in 2016, provided that sane voters will show up in the elections.

  9. Daniel Jones says:

    He’s a politician, therefore he had has will always have NO INTEGRITY.

  10. rustacus21 says:

    As we already know what the problem – turned crisis in our political/Civic Cultural systems (from the societal, to economic to political), it makes corrections of these ‘challenges’ far more simple… as in easier said than done… Or is it? Making the decision to become an activist is the hard part. If U don’t have the belly for it however, simply vote Liberal/Progressive & encourage family, friends, neighbors & strangers to do the same, b/c OUR Democracy is NOT a fee nor a PAY TO PLAY service!!! No one would know that per this article, but the rot that is eating away at the core of our Democracy – understand it begins w/individuals such as those featured in this article who, by the way, have no business being NEAR elective office… let alone being able to buy ‘passes’ to ‘sneak in’…

  11. pitch1934 says:

    This is the most corrupt system. It allows politicians to be bought like toys. We must find a way to outlaw these actions.

  12. Tony Torres says:

    Hey Florida keep electing these lying hypocrites so your state can go down hill some more. Are you people deaf and dumb? It seems you don’t learn. Good luck if you keep the status quo, your governor is on par or worse than the rest of the GOP la Walker and co.

  13. Sand_Cat says:

    Scott had integrity to flush? Didn’t he weasel his way out of an indictment for Medicare or Medicaid fraud scheme before he became governor?

  14. dana becker says:

    He is a scum bag crook. He will always be a crook. Can’t wait to hopefully wipe that smarmy smile off his face. F’n Voldermort.

  15. Bryan Blake says:

    Florida take heart! Your politicians could have been flown to Texas to our Republican Governor Rick Perry’s family ranch with a disgusting racial slur applying to African Americans as its name-sake. But it is nice to know that your politicians are just as disgusting little puppets as our are.

  16. Duke Leigh says:

    Rick “The Fifth” Scott.

  17. Allan Richardson says:

    There are crooks in both parties, and in “third parties” also, but there is a big difference. Democrats favor, and try to pass, and have passed, many programs that make the majority of Americans more secure financially, healthier, and generally happier, than they would otherwise be. Some of them have stolen some of the money “off the top” of these programs, but the programs STILL DO A GREAT DEAL OF GOOD. But today’s Republicans, even more than their predecessors, try to KILL those programs that help people, and empower the already empowered wealthy to cheat more workers out of more wages, more savings, and more political power. And THEN, they steal MORE of the taxpayers’ money (paid by WORKING people including the poor, not so much by their big donors) for themselves and their cronies.

    So which is worse, Santa Claus ripping off some of the gifts in his sack, but delivering most of them? Or a burglar coming in after him and stealing the presents and everything else in the house?

  18. adler56 says:

    That article should be required reading for all Florida voters. They elected a known thief four years ago- what would it take for them to see this bum for what he is? He’s a skinhead literally and figuratively.

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