Tough Rick Scott ad recalls time Bill Nelson sold house to corrupt Lebanese politician

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A new ad from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott attacks incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson over a 1989 real estate deal with a Middle East politician.

The ad, which is being broadcast on TV statewide and across digital media, describes details of the transaction as “Corruption: Washington Style” and questions whether Nelson used unlawful techniques to fund an unsuccessful run for Governor.

“Senator Nelson built a Washington mansion for $1.2 million bucks,” a narrator describes, “then sold it to a corrupt Middle East tycoon for $3.4 million … $2 million more than its assessed value.”

The deal at question involved property Nelson purchased in McLean, Virginia, in 1983, while he served in the U.S. House. Nelson bought the land for $145,000 and built a $1 million home in the Washington suburb.

Nelson first ran for the House in 1978 and won re-election subsequently in the next five elections. Then in 1990, he instead ran for Governor, losing the Democratic nomination to Lawton Chiles.

But Nelson in September 1989 sold the property to a company belonging to Middle East businessman Rafik Hariri,  then an adviser to Saudi Arabia. The home sold for $3.4 million, nearly $2 million above its appraised value. Nelson’s financial disclosures show a $1.8-million profit from the sale.

While appraised prices often differ from market value, Hariri’s company in 2000 sold the property for just $1.9 million.

The new Scott ad infers an explanation for Hariri’s poor investment strategy.

“Nelson pockets $2 million,” the narrator outlines. “The corrupt tycoon later offloads it for just $1.9 million, a huge loss … Nelson pockets $2 million. Was it an illegal campaign contribution disguised as a real estate deal?”

It doesn’t help that Hariri’s name later became synonymous with the word “corruption.” He later served as prime minister of Lebanon from 1992 until 1998 before resigning amid widespread government corruption.

Hariri served as prime minister again from 2000 to 2004, then in 2005 was assassinated in an explosion that also killed 22 others.

Republicans say the real estate deal between Nelson and Hariri looked suspicion at a time when Nelson needed more personal funds to finance his first statewide campaign.

“From selling his over-priced mansion to a corrupt tycoon to essentially using those profits as a campaign donation for his failed run for Governor, Senator Nelson clearly owes Floridians a thorough and long-overdue explanation on what appears to be an illegal campaign contribution disguised as a real estate deal,” said Chris Hartline, a Scott spokesman.

“After 40 years as a professional politician, Bill Nelson seems to think there are only two ways to be successful: take millions of dollars in tax-payer funded salary or resort to Washington corruption to fund his political campaign.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • stepheneng

    October 29, 2018 at 11:38 am

    What a crock of s***. Scott made $83 Million just last year in deals shadier than that. And there is NOTHING so peculiar about that house sale; markets are fluctuating that way all the time in Florida. Note also the “assessed rate” figure used by Scott. Any dummy knows that the rate of “assessment” in no way reflects the market value of the house. I’d like to talk more about Scott’s investment in the firm controlling the bungled SunPass, his new-found interest in light rail (with a big personal investment, after turning down Federal funds for the project). If that’s the best Scott can do–dig up a 21 year-old “scandal,” there are a couple dozen more=scandalous things about Scott in that same period of time.

    • Tina

      October 29, 2018 at 4:23 pm

      Exactly. Rick Scott desperately needs us to forget his lifetime of corrupt deals, not to mention denying Floridians expanded Medicaid funds under the affordable Care act, and removing water regulations that have allowed the blue green algae and red tide. Oh yeah and the climate change denials that are causing worsening hurricanes, and, just for fun, passing a law that has made it people for private beach front owners to keep the public from walking 99% of Florida’s beaches, if the private land owners want to restrict access. Red tide Rick needs to get lost once and for all.

  • Debi

    October 30, 2018 at 5:31 am

    My house is accessed at 150,000. I owe 120,000. I can sell it for 200,000. I’d be an idiot to put it on the market for an accessed value because I’d loose 50k. I’d be an idiot to ask for it to be accessed at 200k because I’d owe more taxes on it.
    This ad sounds just as desperate as DeSantis claiming Gillum is related to the Hamilton tickets investigation. Related to and being investigated himself are not the same thing. I could be related to a criminal case simply because I am a witness.
    Word spin salad with lots of ranch dressing to make it sound plausible.

Comments are closed.


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