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Jun 30, 8:09 PM EDT

Gov. Scott's wallet has millions less in it, filing shows



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire who used his personal fortune to help propel him into office, reported Thursday that his overall net worth tumbled sharply in the past year.

Scott filed his annual financial disclosure form that showed that his net worth was nearly $119.2 million by the end of 2015, a drop of nearly 19 percent from the previous year.

Despite the steep drop, Scott still reported earning nearly $16.6 million last year from his investments. The former health care executive does not take a salary as governor.

Because much of Scott's wealth is shielded from direct public view, it's hard to understand the reasons for the steep decline in his net worth. He has slightly more than $100 million in a blind trust where the individual assets are not disclosed. Last year Scott reported that his blind trust had a value of nearly $128 million.

The Republican governor also reported that he owns a home in Naples worth more than $15.4 million and a vacation home and land in Montana worth nearly $1.5 million.

A spokeswoman for Scott declined to comment on the drop in his net worth.

Scott's financial dealings have prompted lawsuits and criticism that he has not given an accurate portrait of his wealth. But Scott and his attorneys have won every legal battle, and his aides have maintained the criticisms were politically motivated.

During his first run in 2010, Scott released his tax returns and a lengthy list of business holdings. But shortly after taking office, he received permission from the state's ethics commission to set up a blind trust to remove direct control over his finances and try to avoid allegations of conflicts.

Legislators in 2013 passed a law authorizing blind trusts, but it was challenged by a lawsuit. Jim Apthorp, a former aide to the late Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, maintained that the law violated a constitutional amendment requiring elected officials to disclose their financial dealings. The lawsuit was rejected by both a circuit court and an appeals court.

While the lawsuit was pending in 2014, Scott dissolved the trust and released his joint tax returns with wife, Ann Scott, that gave a much broader financial picture. The tax returns showed that the Scott family earned millions more than the governor reported he earned individually. Scott then created a new blind trust run by the same long-time business associate who has managed his finances.

A second lawsuit filed in late 2014 maintained that Scott was not following the law because filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed he had substantially larger holdings in several companies than he reported to the state.

Scott's lawyers called the lawsuit "misleading" and they explained the SEC filings and state filings were different primarily due to the involvement of Ann Scott. Florida law does not require spouses of elected officials to reveal their financial holdings. That second lawsuit was also thrown out by a judge.

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This story has been corrected to show that Scott's net worth was nearly $119.2 million in 2015, not $119.6 million.

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