A house that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sold decades ago has become, improbably, an issue in his re-election campaign against Gov. Rick Scott.
“Senator Nelson built a Washington mansion for $1.2 million bucks,” a narrator described in an ad this week, “then sold it to a corrupt Middle East tycoon for $3.4 million … $2 million more than its assessed value.”
The deal in 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 in September 1989 sold the property for $3.4 million to a company belonging to Middle East businessman Rafik Hariri, then an adviser to Saudi Arabia. Hariri went on to become Prime Minister of Lebanon.
Republicans say the sale amounted to an illegal campaign contribution. Nelson says that’s hogwash from a failing campaign.
“This is an untruthful false statement by a desperate politician who is losing and who tried to divert attention from the fact that he has profited off of public office in the eight years he’s been governor,” Nelson said.
Context for the “losing” comment: Nelson, in his Tuesday event in Jacksonville, was ebullient when talking to those on hand about polls. A poll published by the University of North Florida on Tuesday put the sitting senator ahead of Scott by just a point. RealClearPolitics, which aggregates reputable polls, has Nelson leading by an average of 2 points.