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FL-Sen: Major Democratic donor drags Rick Scott to court one month before primary election

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a candidate for one of Florida's seats in the U.S. Senate, will have to face a court case over allegations that he failed to fully disclose his finances in accordance with state law. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Attorneys for Florida Gov. and Senate candidate Rick Scott (R) will go to court to try to have a financial disclosure lawsuit against the governor thrown out — just a month before the state's primary election.

The attorney leading the lawsuit against Scott has donated thousands of dollars to Scott's opponent in the Senate race and was once a major fundraiser for former President Barack Obama.

The Florida 1st District Court of Appeals announced Tuesday that it would hear arguments in the case on July 17. The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Here's what you need to know about the case

Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee attorney, filed the lawsuit against Scott. Hinkle claims that Scott failed to fully comply with Florida's "Sunshine Amendment."

Under the Sunshine Amendment, elected officials in the state must disclose their finances. Scott filed a financial disclosure form in 2016, which listed his net worth as $149.3 million and listed a blind trust worth $130.5 million.

The lawsuit claims that Scott "failed to fully disclose his financial interests by not disclosing the underlying assets in revocable trusts and various partnerships,” and also accused him of mislabeling assets as being in a blind trust even though they were not.

Scott denied the allegations and his attorneys have tried to have the suit thrown out. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers refused to throw the case out in February, which led Scott's attorneys to take the case to the appeals court to try to have it dismissed.

Who is bringing the lawsuit?

According to Open Secrets and the Federal Election Commision, Hinkle has given $16,100 to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, whom Scott hopes to challenge in November. This includes $5,400 in 2017 for Nelson's re-election bid, which is the maximum permitted for this election cycle.

He was also a major fundraiser for Obama. In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity listed Hinkle as one of "Barack Obama's 21 biggest fans." According to CPI, Hinkle not only raised $50,000 or more for Obama's 2008 campaign, he also contributed $4,600 of his own money, the maximum amount allowed by law that year (the amount allowed per year increases over time to compensate for things like inflation).

In 2012, Hinkle attended a dinner limited to those who had raised at least $50,000 for Obama's re-election campaign. Open Secrets lists Hinkle as being a bundler in the $200,000 to $500,000 range for Obama's 2012 campaign, based on information from Obama's campaign website that year.

Hinkle insists that this lawsuit against Scott is in pursuit of open government and is "not partisan."

What is Scott saying?

A spokesperson for Scott, John Tupps, called the lawsuit “nothing more than a publicity stunt.” Tupps told The Associated Press that Hinkle "should quit wasting everyone’s time.”

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