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All Aboard The Rick Scott Scandal Train

Rick Scott’s campaign has been plagued by an embarrassing number of scandals and constant reminders that he answers to special interests before Floridians. And it just keeps getting worse.

This weekend, news of yet another special interest-driven scandal within the Scott administration broke, this one involving his current chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth, an adviser on the Scott transition team at the time, played an instrumental role in Scott’s decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail. Then, he accepted a job at Parallel Infrastructure, and turned around and lobbied Scott to move forward on a rail project with Parallel’s sister company, All Aboard Florida, breaking Scott’s self-imposed one-year lobbying ban for his transition team. Scott embraced the All Aboard Florida plan, which received millions in Florida taxpayer dollars, and Hollingsworth later rejoined the Scott administration as his chief of staff.

It’s a disturbing development but not a surprising one. Scott has already come under fire for approving plans from Florida Power & Light, a major campaign donor, to build obtrusive new nuclear plants. He flip-flopped on state funding for rowing facilities after receiving donations from developers. His Department of Economic Opportunity is taking heat for allegations that they fraudulently referred 19,000 Floridians to collection agencies and retaliated against the whistleblower for exposing the cover-up. And his staff has been marred by one scandal after the next.

Rick Scott has a lot of questions to answer. But then again, answering questions isn’t really his thing.

Background:

Adam Hollingsworth Was Scott’s Chief Of Staff And “One Of The Most Important People In Scott’s Inner Circle.” According to the Fine Print “Adam Hollingsworth, the chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott and one of the most important people in Scott’s inner circle, doesn’t really use email for official business.” [The Fine Print, 3/31/14]

Scott Supported Controversial “All Aboard Florida” Train. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Gov. Rick Scott, who faced intense criticism for rejecting federal money for high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando, has new train troubles for favoring a controversial rail project on Florida’s east coast. Scott supports All Aboard Florida, a private passenger rail venture from Miami to Cocoa and eventually to Orlando’s airport. Where Scott sees jobs, residents and elected leaders see big problems.” [Tampa Bay Times, 6/8/14]

Scott Chief Of Staff Adam Hollingsworth Used His Relationship With Scott To Lobby For A Rail Project That Benefited His Employers. According to the Naples Daily News, “Hollingsworth became one of Scott’s most trusted advisers, a position he used to influence the administration’s rejection of billions in federal high-speed rail money, then later lobby for a rail project that would benefit his employer, emails, text messages and administration documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau show.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]

  • As Transportation Advisor To Scott’s Transition Team Hollingsworth Drafted A Letter Rejecting Federal Rail Funding. According to the Naples Daily News, “After the November 2010 election, Hollingsworth was brought on to serve as a transportation adviser to Scott’s transition team. His role was not ceremonial. As adviser, Hollingsworth penned a draft letter informing federal administrators Florida was rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa. “Please find attached a draft letter for the governor to send US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on high-speed rail,” Hollingsworth wrote in a Feb. 13, 2011, email to a handful of Scott advisers. Hollingsworth’s letter included links to a study authored by the Libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation that found cost overruns could cost state taxpayers $3 billion, a number later cited by Scott.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]
  • Hollingsworth Accepted Job At Parallel Infrastructure, Company Pushing Miami To Orlando Rail Project; Conversation About Employment Likely Happened While Hollingsworth Was Advising Scott. According to the Naples Daily News, “After the state rejected the federal money, Hollingsworth became an executive at Parallel Infrastructure, a company owned by Florida East Coast Industries. That company also owns All Aboard Florida, now pushing a Miami to Orlando rail project. Julie Edwards, All Aboard Florida’s chief marketing officer, said Hollingsworth working to reject the federal money didn’t help All Aboard Florida. “It is completely different market, a completely different way to think about transportation,” she said of the different route proposals. Because it’s a “small transportation world,” employment conversations between Hollingsworth and Parallel Infrastructure were likely occurring while he was advising Scott, Edwards said. She said no one should “infer” those conversations included talk about the project.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]
  • Hollingsworth Helped Pick Transportation Secretary Who Signed Off On All Aboard Florida Deal. According to the Naples Daily News, “Back in 2010 in his advisory role to Scott, Hollingsworth helped assemble the state Department of Transportation that later signed off on the All Aboard Florida project. Hollingsworth vetted candidates for transportation secretary, including current Secretary Ananth Prasad, helped shape policy decisions and received internal assessments of the department shortly after Scott was elected. “We will have our DRAFT agency review document to you no later than midnight tonight,” wrote Doug Callaway, president of Floridians for Better Transportation, an industry trade group, in a December 2010 email to Hollingsworth and another adviser. That was two weeks before Scott was sworn into office. The Florida Transportation Commission proposes a slate of three secretary candidates for the governor to choose, a process that involved Hollingsworth.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]
  • Hollingsworth Began Advising Scott To Be Pro-Rail After Becoming Employed By Parallel. According to the Naples Daily News, “After accepting a job with Parallel Infrastructure, Hollingsworth’s rail advice to Scott changed. Almost immediately, he started lobbying the administration to support his employer’s new project, which now is being helped by millions in state taxpayer dollars and is expected to generate more than $170 million in revenue annually.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]
  • Scott Administration Said That There Was “Firewall” Between Hollingsworth As Chief Of Staff And All Aboard Florida Decisions. According to the Naples Daily News, “The Scott administration now says Hollingsworth, 45, had “no knowledge of AAF when he worked on transition or when the draft letter was sent.’ When taking the position as Scott’s chief of staff, Hollingsworth signed a ‘fire wall’ letter agreeing not to ‘participate in any meetings or decision related to’ companies tied to his former employer. The administration produced the letter after being asked by the Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau if Hollingsworth had undue influence over the process.” [Naples Daily News,7/5/14]
  • All Aboard Florida Was Supposedly Privately Financed, Requested $1.5 Billion In Federal Loans And Benefited From $230 Million In State Spending. According to the Naples Daily News, “All Aboard Florida’s 256-mile rail service has been touted from the beginning as a completely privately financed project that will not cost the state a dime, which is the reason Scott said he supports the plan. At this point, though, the project is seeking $1.5 billion in federal loans that could be key to refinancing its existing debt, and more than $230 million in state dollars have already been set aside for projects that will either directly or indirectly benefit All Aboard Florida’s rail line.” [Naples Daily News, 7/5/14]

Scott Set A One Year Lobbying Ban For Members Of His Transition Team. According to Sunshine State News, “Members of Rick Scott’s transition team will be barred from lobbying state agencies for one year once he takes office, the governor-elect announced Wednesday from his transition headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.” [Sunshine State News,11/11/10]

  • Ban Extended To Lobbying Agency Heads. According to Sunshine State News, “The ban will not be extended to other elected officials, such as incoming Attorney General Pam Bondi or Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who will have to make up their own rules, but Scott said the ethical code of conduct will govern and be signed by all members and agency heads he appoints to prepare for his succession in January.” [Sunshine State News, 11/11/10]