U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle denied Scott’s request to bar McCollum from receiving an influx of public money for his campaign. Scott sued the state last week to keep McCollum from getting matching money for every dollar Scott spends between $24.9 million and $49.8 million.
But Hinkle denied Scott’s suit saying the Florida law, which allows for the matching funding, was designed to avoid the appearance of corruption, something he didn’t want to override.
Scott’s legal team has said the candidate will appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Obviously we’ll follow them to Atlanta on the appeal and make sure we argue our side,” McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams said. “We were confident the Scott campaign’s case had no merit.
The statute, passed by the Florida Legislature in 1991, enacted a $500 limit on individual campaign contributions and also provided that a candidate would receive public financing if an opponent chose not to follow the state’s campaign finance limits.
Scott, who has self-financed his campaign, is inching closer to $24.9 million spent on the campaign, or $2 for every registered voter in the state. Once he passes that threshold, opponents who have opted to publicly finance their campaign will be given a dollar-for-dollar match of Scott’s spending until he tops $49.8 million.
For example, if Scott spends $30 million in total on the campaign, then McCollum would be entitled to $5.1 million in matching funds from the state.
The news comes at a good time for McCollum, whose campaign coffers have dipped below $1 million, a fraction of the nine-figure fortune Scott, a health care executive, has at his disposal.
At the time the lawsuit was filed on July 7, Scott’s campaign estimated it had spent about $21 million since it launched in April. With the primary only five weeks away, spending is expected to ramp up even more as the two battle to face likely Democratic nominee Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer.
Scott has said he has needed to spend huge sums in order to get the name recognition McCollum already enjoys as a long-time politician in the state and statewide office holder.
“Bill McCollum has been a career politician for over two decades,” Scott spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a press release following the ruling. “He has raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in campaigns to tell voters who he is and what he believes in. He has enjoyed the bully pulpit of elective office, earning millions more in free media.”
McCollum for his part has taken an uneasy tack with the public financing he’ll receive and the extra millions that could come from this ruling.
“We don’t all have this silver spoon,” he told the Jacksonville Times-Union. “If we’re going to do away with public financing, that’s on the ballot. I don’t oppose that in one sense, but I oppose it right now.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.