Federal complaint alleges Rick Scott illegally benefited from anti-Bill Nelson Super PAC ads

The left-leaning organization End Citizens United said New Republican PAC and Rick Scott worked together to attack Nelson.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, seen here in St. Petersburg in mid-July, has been dogged by questions about his blind trust all summer. [Times]
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, seen here in St. Petersburg in mid-July, has been dogged by questions about his blind trust all summer. [Times]
Published Sep. 10, 2018

A left-leaning organization pushing campaign finance reform is alleging in a federal complaint that Gov. Rick Scott illegally benefited from television advertisements aired by a super PAC closely aligned with his campaign.

The complaint from End Citizens United, to be filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission, says that ads aired by New Republican PAC in May and June violated campaign finance laws because they helped Scott in his Senate race. Though the ads didn't mention the Republican, they attacked Sen. Bill Nelson, his Democratic opponent.

The timing of the ads were suspect, End Citizens United says, because they came just months after Scott stepped down as chairman of New Republican PAC. The complaint says that the timeline "demonstrates that Rick Scott began developing political and communications strategy for a potential campaign for Senate while serving as a chair of a super PAC that immediately after his announcement began running advertisements to aid his campaign."

Before Scott entered the race, New Republican PAC was a political action committee to "re-brand and re-invent the Republican Party" in the era of President Trump and to appeal to Hispanics.

But the day he announced his campaign for Senate, the organization changed its website into a pro-Scott message. That swift change over also sparked a FEC complaint by End Citizens United.

Scott also appeared at a fundraiser for New Republican PAC on Aug. 28 as a "special guest" in a move that one campaign finance expert said "indicates that our system is broken."

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End Citizens United said the FEC "must immediately investigate to confirm whether Respondents did in fact violate the Federal Election Campaign Act by financing coordinated communications that resulted in prohibited in-kind contributions to Rick Scott for U.S. Senate."

End Citizens United supports candidates for office who pledge to fight for campaign finance reform, including Nelson. The political action committee has pledged $35 million to help Democrats defeat Republicans this fall.

Scott's campaign dismissed previous allegations as "typical Democrat smear tactics."

New Republican PAC has raised $10.6 million this election cycle, according to campaign finance records, and has spent about half of it attacking Nelson.