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Transparency? Shadow-group spot cut by Bill McCollum ad man

Back on Feb. 9, Bill McCollum told us that "I think we need to have as much transparency as possible in the party. Always have thought that."

That claim was false (more here) at the time, and now it looks as if the Republican's campaign for governor isn't interested in too much "transparency," either, considering its ties to a shadowy election group, the Virginia-based Alliance For America's Future. It's spending more than $1 million from sources unknown to bash McCollum's fellow Republican gubernatorial opponent Rick Scott. The 30-second spot was produced by McCollum's ad man, Chris Mottola.

When asked about the campaign's involvement, McCollum spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said: "We are not surprised that any number of groups have concerns about Rick Scott who has committed massive fraud on Florida taxpayers." That's a reference to Scott's tenure as chief of Columbia/HCA and the record $1.7 billion fraud fine it paid in 2000. The fine is the subject of the Alliance's Mottola-cut spot titled "Fraud."

The Alliance is so mysterious that it can't be easiy found on the IRS website for political groups. Were it not for an affiliated 527, Partnership For America's Future, the 501c4 wouldn't be easy to find at all. As a 501c4, the group doesn't have to disclose its donors, which could include U.S. Sugar. The groups are currently not regulated in Florida.

"We do not disclose our donors and I won't comment on our future plans," Barry Bennett, a director of the Virginia-based group, wrote in an email.

"The ad we are running in Florida is about the billions Medicare Fraud costs the state. The ad does mention Rick Scott in conjunction with his leadership at Columbia and the record fine they received for fraud. The ad concludes with a call to action asking citizens to report fraud vigorously. The ad is running in most media markets and all told we spent about a million dollars on the buy....The board is made up of myself... and Kara Ahern." Mary Cheney, daughter of the former VP, is an advisor.

The Virginia group is also active in Nevada politics where it just lost a court fight over its ads supporting Republican Brian Sandoval (more here). Did Mottola cut these or any other ads for the Alliance? "I would prefer not to get in to tactics or strategy," Bennett said.

Mottola, incidentally, was central to a controversy last year over his no-bid $1.4 million media contract to boost Attorney General McCollum's crime-fighting bona fides. Dems said it was nothing more than a taxpayer boondoggle to help McCollum's run for governor, which he denied (more here).