Rick Scott, Republican candidate for governor of Florida, filed a lawsuit last night challenging the state’s campaign financing law, just as his opponent is prepared to benefit from it. Scott’s move is not only an attempt to keep public money from his rival in the primary, Attorney General Bill McCollum, but also to put the Republican leadership in the awkward position of defending Scott’s effort. Republicans are largely behind an effort to repeal the law.
McCollum has the support of most of the Republican leadership. The law will give him public money in order to keep up with multi-millionaire Scott’s self-funded campaign, once Scott has spent more than $25 million. Scott, according to his lawsuit, has spent about $21 million of his own money on this race since April. The lawsuit claims that any public money offered to his competitor because of Scott’s spending infringes on his First Amendment right to political speech. Scott asserts that he needs to spend large amounts of money on political speech to educate voters about his candidacy because he has never held public office before. Aiding McCollum with public money offers an unfair and unconstitutional advantage, the lawsuit claims.
McCollum’s campaign released a statement claiming that Scott “can’t play by the rules,” but never officially endorsing the campaign finance law. Republicans in the legislature widely supported a ballot initiative this spring to repeal the law. As attorney general, McCollum’s office will also be tasked with defending the state against the lawsuit.