DeSantis Promotes Trump’s Corruption Practices in Florida

0
305

Florida is the best example of a MAGA state where lax law and regulatory enforcement and right-wing culture wars are attracting America’s most wealthy people and Fraudsters.

Florida, Donald Trump’s adopted home state, is not just a state with the highest fraud levels in the nation but also a burgeoning bastion of right-wing financial and social values. This shift in the political landscape is a cause for concern. 

From the panhandle to Miami, Florida has become Governor DeSantis’s right-wing bastion. He controls the state legislature and almost all state departments and has powerful patronage powers.  His state supervisors have banned books, dictated subjects that cannot be taught in school, banned books, mangled scientific evidence to prevent COVID, installed party hacks at the state’s universities and colleges, and put out the welcome mat to billionaires whose primary purpose is to pay the least taxes possible.

And that’s just for starters.

As numerous articles, including this powerful piece from The Prospect,  have reported, Governor DeSantis has flagrantly abused the public trust. His actions are a slap in the face of democracy.

This is just a sampling of his anti-Democratic acts.

But, less reported are the billionaires who have been welcomed to Florida because the state has no state income tax, estate tax, no tax on capital gains, lax regulatory enforcement, and favorable consideration of ongoing business operations that stretch state regulations and local ordinances.  Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Ken Griffin, hedge funds, private equity funds, and real estate developers often continue to run their businesses in New York but change their residence status to obtain tax benefits.

Rick Scott: Florida’s Fraud Idol and DeSantis’ Buddy

Scott: Florida’s biggest fraudster and MAGA leader

By far, the best example of Florida corruption comes from its own Republican senator, and former governor, the rabid MAGA Trump supporter, Rick Scott.

Rick Scott amassed his personal fortune as the CEO of Columbia-HCA which he grew into a hugely profitable hospital network.  By 1994, his company had over 340 hospitals, 135 surgery centers and 550 home health locations, with some 285,000 employees.

Scott resigned as CEO in 1997. That was the same year that federal agents announced their investigation into the company. “In time, it became apparent that the investigation focused on whether Columbia/HCA bilked Medicare and Medicaid for tests that were not necessary or ordered by physicians, and for attaching false diagnosis codes to patient records to increase reimbursement to the hospitals,” according to Politifact.com

To show the scope of the investigation, the U.S. Justice Department announced  “the largest government fraud settlement in U.S. history when Columbia/HCA agreed to pay $840 million in criminal fines and civil damages and penalties. Among the revelations from the 2000 settlement, which all apply to when Scott was CEO, were that Columbia overbilled Medicare for unnecessary tests and false diagnosis codes,” according to Politifact.com  In a second series of similar penalties against Columbia/HCA in 2002, the Feds received an additional $881 million. This brought the total fine against Columbia-HCA to $1.7 billion.

As an example of how criminal get away with their crimes, when the the company agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines in 2003, as what was then the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history. Scott walked away with $10 million severance pay, a five-year consulting contract and $300 million in stock and options. Trump certainly saw Scott’s remuneration package as how crime pays.

And since corporations are people, as part of the 2000 settlement, Columbia-HCA agreed to plead guilty, but Scott, an actual human being, was never indicted. In his court testimony, he said he could not recognize his own signature on corporate documents. Still, Scott was able to keep his fortune and was elected governor of Florida, which has a huge Medicare-Medicaid constituency, for two successive terms.

DeSantis Welcomes Fraudsters to Florida

The state has also attracted shady cryptocurrency and hedge fund operators.  These people join the resident Florida fraudsters who have a long history of preying on the elderly, hurricane victims, people starting home construction projects, identity thieves, as well as Medicare and Medicaid frauds.

Some of the best examples of this happen in the state’s growing real estate development industry.  Real estate developers routinely ask for and receive variances in local building codes to access every square foot of buildable land for their projects in every major city.  This often involves reducing parking spaces to expand the building’s footprint.  In exchange, the lawyers for real estate developers are kept busy badgering city building departments and city councils, petitioning and negotiating for more land than the original land survey shows.

What’s happening in Palm Beach is an excellent example of hypocrisy from the wealthy people who have a double set of standards. This island town is the most prosperous city in Florida, with a median household income of $169,500 and an estimated 30 billionaires living there as of 2022.  What makes Palm Beach interesting is that it does not allow any high-rise construction on the island.  The wealthy residents there want to preserve the island’s old tropical chic and congestion.

No high-rise developments are allowed on Palm Beach Island. 

But Palm Beach is the exception.  In every other major Florida city, real estate developers run the table.  This accounts for the added congestion in South Florida alone: West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, south Miami, and Pompano Beach. These areas have the location and demographics to attract new buyers who can afford a few million for one of the low-end units.  In Miami, one building has units starting at $10 million. 

Florida Corruption Starts From the Bottom Up

Corruption is a corrosive process that starts from the top down and the bottom up.

As the independent investigative news site, the Florida Bulldog, has reported, city corruption is common and often goes unpunished.  As an example, a Bay Harbor Island, Florida police chief was promoted despite his “double-dipping”  that he received from an off-duty job while simultaneously supposedly working for the town’s police force.  Documents obtained by the Florida Bulldog found that the chief made about $37,000 from his off-duty job while also collecting his police salary of $143,932.  In July 2020, an assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney declined to prosecute the police chief despite the evidence from an extensive investigation.

The Florida Bulldog has stories about similar city-level corruption, but the lax enforcement attitude is not lost on the wealthy people relocating to Florida.  Their best example comes from the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, who received very favorable treatment from Palm Beach County Sherriff Ric Bradshaw, who did not enforce the house arrest stipulation from Epstein’s conviction. 

As the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported, Palm Beach County Sheriff Bradshaw approved a very lenient work release schedule for Epstein after he pled guilty to two state prostitution   charges in 2008 and 2009.  Bradshaw allowed Epstein “to leave the Palm Beach County Jail seven days a week, for up to 16 hours a day — including two hours per day at the Palm Beach mansion where he previously sexually abused dozens of minor girls, records from the Sheriff’s Office reveal.”

Examples like this are a stark reminder for the new wealthy Florida residents.  They are well aware that their political power and large political donations will buy them leniency and, even better, a blind eye if they violate state and local laws. 

In DeSantis’ Florida, it’s not just about the wealthy getting extensive tax breaks but also getting a get-out-of-jail-free card.

 

Previous articleMaybe Americans Deserve a Dose of Fascism To Learn About Democracy
Next articleWhat Al Franken’s Sad Resignation Can Teach Joe Biden
Chuck Epstein has managed marketing communications and public relations departments for major global financial institutions and participated in the launch of industry-changing financial products. He also has written by-lined articles for over 50 publications, five books and served as editor and publisher of nation’s first newsletter on the topic of using the PC for personal investing and trading. (“Investing Online, 1994-1999). He also is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on topics related to investor protection and opportunities in the very dynamic cannabis industry. He has held senior-level marketing, PR and communications positions at the New York Futures Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Lind-Waldock, Zacks Investment Research, Russell Investments and Principal Financial. He has won national awards from the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) and his web site, www.mutualfundreform.com, was named best small blog in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here