Gov. Rick Scott To Release Tax Returns

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott is promising to release his tax returns and hand over whatever financial details the courts require.

His promise came a day after a lawsuit was filed that challenges a year-old state law that allows elected officials to place their assets in a blind trust instead of reporting each investment publicly. The Florida Supreme Court has been asked to rule before candidates start qualifying for the ballot next month.

Scott, who was a wealthy businessman before seeking office, is the only elected official using a blind trust.

Scott’s campaign manager, Melissa Sellers, wrote a letter to the secretary of state on Thursday that says, “Whatever the rules are, the governor will gladly comply with them.”

“If the courts believe the trust should be dissolved, all assets will be disclosed in accordance with the law for qualifying,” Sellers wrote.

The campaign also said Scott would publicly release his tax returns, although it did not specify when that would occur.

During his first run, in 2010, the Republican released three years of tax returns and a lengthy list of all his business holdings. But shortly after he took office, he received permission from the state’s ethics commission to set up a blind trust to remove direct control over his finances in order to avoid potential conflicts.

A new ethics law passed last year by the Florida Legislature authorizes blind trusts but says that public officials who set them up must disclose the initial assets placed in the account. Scott last summer disclosed what assets were included in the account as of 2011 but declined to reveal any information about more recent holdings.

Jim Apthorp, who was chief of staff for the late Gov. Reubin Askew, filed an emergency petition this week that contends the blind trust provision goes against the Sunshine Laws Amendment that was adopted by the state’s voters in 1976. The amendment, pushed by the Democratic governor, marked the first time elected officials were required to disclose their finances.

The lawsuit calls on the Supreme Court to strike down the blind trust law and block any candidates from qualifying for the ballot unless they file a full disclosure of all their finances.

Also supporting the legal challenge of the ethics law are the League of Women Voters and several news media organizations, including The Associated Press.

When Scott first sought office, he reported a net worth of $218 million. Last summer he listed a net worth of nearly $84 million as of the end of 2012.

None of Scott’s annual financial disclosures since he became governor has included anything about the assets of his wife of 41 years, who contributed nearly $13 million out of her trust account to help her husband get elected.