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New memo links McCollum campaign to shadow political group

UPDATED: Attorney General Bill McCollum continues to distance himself from two shadowy political committees running negative advertisements against his opponent, Rick Scott, but more evidence is surfacing about his campaign's close ties to the groups.

The latest is an email obtained by the Times/Herald that asks McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams "for final approval" of the attack ad run by the Alliance For America's Future.

Dated May 25, the memo was sent from a Philadelphia area media producer to Williams, John McLaughlin (McCollum pollster), Arthur Finkelstein (McCollum consultant), two McCollum media producer staffers and Mary Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who runs the Alliance, a 501(c)4. It asks for approval before the ad is sent by Marianne Campbell, McCollum's media buyer.

The memo is not the first link between McCollum and the Alliance. McCollum is also intimately connected to The Florida First Initiative, a 527 group also airing attack ads against Scott.

The legal issue is whether the evidence amounts to "control" -- which is the legal standard that determines whether the groups and McCollum are bound to tougher disclosure requirements. It's an amorphous  standard and one never challenged before in Florida.

Scott's campaign believes McCollum is breaking the law by not disclosing his involvement. McCollum contends he doesn't control the groups, despite the numerous connections.

As for the memo asking "for approval," McCollum's campaign dismissed it. "The campaign did not approve the ad. Only the leadership of the Alliance for America’s future has the authority to do that," spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. "We do not control this organization.

"For a man like Rick Scott, who is funding his campaign with the money he made from overseeing one of the most massive Medicare fraud schemes in American history, to criticize anyone’s ethics is the height of audacity."