Not Scott free: Appeals court blocks matching funds for McCollum

In this June 17, 2010, file photo, Florida republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum speaks during the Florida Press Association and FSNE annual meeting in Sarasota, Fla. The dirt is flying in the Florida race for governor. In response to an ad by newcomer challenger Rick Scott McCollum critizes him for the record settlement Scott's former hospital company paid to settle Medicare fraud charges.'

In this June 17, 2010, file photo, Florida republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum speaks during the Florida Press Association and FSNE annual meeting in Sarasota, Fla. The dirt is flying in the Florida race for governor. In response to an ad by newcomer challenger Rick Scott McCollum critizes him for the record settlement Scott's former hospital company paid to settle Medicare fraud charges."

Election 2010: Bill McCollum, Governor

Rick Scott comes to Naples

Scott stop at his campaign headquarters in ...

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— No match for you!

That’s essentially what a federal appeals court in Atlanta told Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum on Friday — after it reversed a Florida court’s decision and effectively blocked his attempt to get taxpayer money to bolster his campaign.

In an opinion published Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued a preliminary injunction to keep Florida from releasing funds to McCollum.

The Florida Legislature in 1991 passed a statute enacting 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.

McCollum’s opponent, multimillionaire Rick Scott, is self-funding most of his campaign. Under Florida law, for every dollar he puts in above $24.9 million, the state would give McCollum’s campaign an equal amount.

Scott argued that violates his First Amendment right to free speech.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee on July 14 rejected Scott’s attempt to block McCollum from receiving state funds for his campaign. Hinkle said Florida’s election statute was designed to encourage voter participation and avoid the appearance of corruption. He said he didn’t want to override it less than six weeks before the state’s Aug. 24 primary.

But Hinkle noted at the time that his decision was a close one on its merits and said it could be reviewed differently by judges in other courts.

The 11th Circuit noted Florida’s justification of excessive spending because of an anti-corruption interest, but concluded that the state “cannot satisfy its burden of establishing that its subsidy furthers that interest in the least restrictive manner possible.”

After the announcement, McCollum for Governor Campaign Manager Matt Williams issued a statement.

“Regardless of the outcome of this case, we remain very confident we will have the resources necessary to communicate Bill McCollum’s solid conservative record of leadership and his vision for Florida’s future with voters across the state,” Williams said in the statement. “We are also confident Floridians are becoming increasingly leery of a greedy corporate insider whose only record is consistently putting profit over principle.”

Meanwhile the news was welcomed by the Scott campaign.

“Today’s ruling protecting Rick Scott’s constitutional rights is a huge victory for Florida taxpayers,” said Scott Campaign Communiations Director Jennifer Baker in a statement. “Career politician Bill McCollum and his insider friends have spent $16 million funding his negative campaign and yet Bill McCollum continues to take ‘welfare for politicians’. In fact today the court limited Bill McCollum’s pickpoketing of taxpayers to millions of dollars instead of tens of millions of dollars.”

McCollum decided 14 months ago to surrender a second term as attorney general to seek the gubernatorial nomination. He was seen as a prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination before Scott emerged from the private sector in mid-April to overhaul McCollum in the polls with a 24-7 statewide advertising blitz introducing himself to voters.

McCollum’s fundraising has dried up as polls show his upstart opponent passing him up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Naples Daily News staff contributed to this report.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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