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The nasty immigration debate in GOP primary race

The increasingly negative battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is turning to the topic of immigration with Bill McCollum and Rick Scott leveling attacks that make each other look hypocritical.

The attack on Scott came first, courtesy of opposition researched (presumably from those close to McCollum) shopped to the Orlando Sentinel. But Scott's attack on McCollum came straight from the Scott campaign Wednesday in a media release.

It's messy but the gist is this: McCollum, as a lobbyist, represented banks that profited from illegal immigrants' remittances and Scott, as a businessman, invested in companies that made money from illegal immigrants' remittances.

The connections are tenuous (expect PolitiFact Florida to help sort it out soon) and the substance appears thin at this point. But the lingering effect is just a nastiness that could hurt both candidates, regardless of who is more connected to remittance transactions, which aren't illegal but just politically intolerable if they come from immigrants who entered the United States against the law.

The issue of illegal immigration is a major focal point for GOP primary voters. And to date, it's an issue Scott owns. He was first to support an Arizona-styled law that allows officers at stops to check an individual's immigration status. And the move forced McCollum to also support the Arizona effort, after initially suggesting otherwise.

On the campaign trail, this stance is Scott's biggest, most consistence applause line. So he likely has the most to loose if voters determine his tough-on-immigration position is hypocritical.

In 2004, his firm, Richard L. Scott Investments, LLC, invested in Emida Technologies, a global transaction company that does remittances, among other things. (The firm's website no longer posts its investments and Emida no longer lists Scott's company as an investor.)

"EMIDA Technologies is deploying a growing transactional network which enables electronic prepaid service distribution, money transfer and stored value card processing targeting the Global Hispanic market," a company biography states. "The company has contracted networks in 15 countries including the U.S., Latin America and Europe."

McCollum was a lobbyist for Citigroup in 2002 when the financial giant merged with Golden State Bancorp to capitalize on the Hispanic market that used remittance services. He also represented AmeriDream Charity, Inc., which pitched its mortgages to illegal immigrants.

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