Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott’s own 527 groups, with the same name as his campaign slogan “Let’s Get to Work,” will start a $1.5 million ad buy Friday, running through July 2. The group, according to IRS records, filed for 527 status on May 27 with John French, a Tallahassee election lawyer working as a consultant for the Scott campaign, as its custodian.
His rival, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has benefited from anti-Scott ads by multiple 527s associated with members of his own campaign, while Scott, who is worth $218 million according to his financial disclosure, has ostensibly used his own funds in the race. (Thus, he will not have to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures until July.) So why does Rick Scott even need his own 527?
Scott admits the answer is to stay within the state spending cap. “We opened a 527. That will help us stay within the cap, absolutely,” he said. If he spends more than $29.4 million, then McCollum gets matching funds from the state. The Scott campaign has already spent over $16 million on television alone, and the primary election is not till Aug. 24. If the campaign continues along current lines, they would easily bust the cap before even the primary election.
Scott’s 527 is slightly more transparent than the McCollum-associated groups, but only because Scott is openly soliciting money for it. Scott yesterday filed a “statement of solicitation” with the group allowing him to “indirectly or directly” solicit money for the 527. In line with Florida election law, the 527 has a website, letsgettowork.net, with an anodyne mission statement listing Scott and French as associated candidates and persons. It does not yet list contributions and expenditures, but according to Florida election law, the group has five business days to do so. (French and the Scott campaign have not responded to the request for comment.)
The groups that have run anti-Scott ads did not file this form. One e-mail sent to prospective donors obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reads, “Bill McCollum asked that I forward this information to you,” with a bank routing number for the 527 groups, Florida First Initiative. If he indeed “indirectly or directly” solicited money for the group, then the campaign is subject to a $50-per-day fine.
By naming the 527 the same name as his campaign slogan, the Scott campaign appears to be trying to confuse voters. During Scott’s self-funded ad blitz, all of his ads ended with “Let’s get to work.” Now, the disclosure will say, “Funded by Let’s Get to Work,” a distinction that many viewers might miss.