This Saturday, two famous Florida fraudsters will link arms to collect campaign cash. Rick Scott and his wealthy contributors are spending the evening with Jim Batmasian, a tax-evading South Florida tycoon who — unlike Rick Scott — couldn’t dodge a felony and served time federal prison.
Birds of a feather…
— By Stephanie Mencimer | Thu Jun. 5, 2014 11:21 AM EDT
Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) is in the midst of a tight reelection race, running neck and neck against former Republican governor Charlie Crist, who’s now a Democrat. Scott has raised gobs of money to fuel his campaign—and apparently he isn’t especially particular about where it comes from. On Saturday, he is scheduled to appear at a $10,000-a-person fundraiser at the Boca Raton home of James Batmasian, a powerful real estate developer and philanthropist in the state who also has done hard time for tax evasion.
In 2008, Batmasian pleaded guilty to charges that he’d failed to collect and pay about $250,000 in federal withholding taxes from employees of his Boca Raton investment company. He was sentenced to eight months in a federal prison, two years of supervised release, and fined $30,000. Batmasian, a Harvard-trained lawyer, also had his law license suspended as a result of the felony plea and is still unable to practice law in Florida.
After his release from prison in South Carolina in 2009, he returned to Florida and his real estate empire. Since then, he’s thrown some money around in Republican politics. He and his wife Marta attended the Boca Raton fundraiser for Mitt Romney in 2012, where the GOP presidential candidate made his infamous “47 percent” remarks and claimed that nearly half of Americans are mooches who don’t take responsibility for their own lives. Marta has also contributed generously to GOP causes, including chipping in $50,000 to Romney’s campaign.
Saturday, the Batmasians will be hosting an event for Scott, who has spent a good part of his time in office battling poll ratings that rank him as one of the most unpopular governors in the state’s history. Having an ex-felon as a fundraiser probably won’t hurt Scott’s reputation much. Scott has his own baggage to contend with. Before getting into politics, he founded and ran a company, HCA, which committed one of the biggest health care frauds in the nation’s history. In 2000—a few years after Scott had been forced out of the firm—HCA paid out a $1.7 billion-with-a-b fine after being investigated by the Justice Department for Medicare fraud. That makes Batmasian’s felonious past look like small potatoes.