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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Judge throws out Scott's challenge; Scott plans immediate appeal



Saying there was a greater public interest in preventing corruption than protecting Rick Scott's First Amendment rights, federal district court Judge Robert Hinkle on Tuesday threw out the insurgent Republican's request for an injunction of Florida's public campaign finance law.

His ruling upholds the provision that requires the state to cut McCollum a check for every dollar Scott spends over the $24.9 million limit the law imposes on candidates who don't opt into the public finance system.

Hinkle said that the state's matching fund system was adopted by the Florida Legislature at the same time it enacted the $500 limit on individual campaign contributions and that together the 1991 law serves to
"combat corruption or the appearance of corruption" in the campaign finance system. By allowing a candidate to collect more money if his opponent fails to agree to the campaign finance limits, the system was intended to "offset the effects of the $500 cap,'' he said.

For that reason, and the fact that "it's in the middle of the campaign'' and there is "a strong public interest in avoiding chaos in the run up to the election,'' Hinkle rejected Scott's attempt to repeal the trigger that will inject needed cash into McCollum's troubled campaign.

Scott's attorney, Enu Mainigi, said that they are disappointed in the ruling and "plan on pressing our case quickly with the 11th circuit'' through an immediate appeal.

Hinkle made his ruling from the bench an hour after attorneys for Scott, McCollum and the secretary of state made their case. He followed it with a 50-minute oral analysis of the case in which he said he expects the decision to be appealed, the  and that the outcome of his ruling being upheld is not guaranteed.

"This is a moving target -- so the law is likely to change as we go, including perhaps in this case,'' he said. "...Nobody can walk out of this room with an assurance this is how this election goes forward.''

He predicted th issue "will get to the Supreme Court'' and that "I don't think it's going to be 9-0. It may be 5-4. It's a very close issue.''

But in a detailed analysis of the consitutional provisions applied to the law and a balancing of the effects of the ruling on each of the candidates, Hinkle sought to explain why he believes his ruling should be upheld.

 "If I thought this provision was unconstitutional, I would enjoin,'' he said. He agreed that the requirement that McCollum receive matching money "imposes a burden on Mr. Scott's speech'.' But unlike recent rulings throwing out millionaire provisions of law in Connecticut and Arizona, Hinkle said Florida's law was different because the provision that triggered the matching funds over the spending limit was passed "hand in hand" with te $500 individual and corporate limit.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:47am]


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