Gubernatorial Hopefuls Split on Investigating RPOF Credit Cards
The three leading candidates to replace Gov. Charlie Crist next year offered different advice on whether or not the state should investigate credit card use at the Republican Party under former chairman Jim Greer.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, said Monday that Attorney General Bill McCollum should launch an investigation into the party’s expenditures following reports that Greer and other top officials spent contributions to the party extravagantly. But McCollum said that he wouldn’t even consider an investigation until a new RPOF chairman is elected Saturday. Meanwhile, McCollum’s GOP primary rival, state Sen. Paula Dockery, repeated her call for the details of the usage of the cards to be made public.
“I think there’s been enough reporting around this … that were egregious abuses of credit card usage,” Sink told reporters after speaking Monday at a forum sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business and Florida TaxWatch. “I would say he’s the attorney general of the state, he’s the top cop, he ought to be looking into it.”
Dockery, R-Lakeland, said the party ought to release details of the card use, but also said it would be natural for an attorney general to look into the issue. “It’s a great year to be a Republican, but we need to get this ridiculousness behind us,” Dockery said.
The calls for an investigation stem from complaints about revelations of questionable purchases and other expenditures, which led to Greer’s resignation in January. Recently, it was reported that party executive director and top fundraiser Delmar Johnson, a former Crist aide, made more than $400,000 plus expenses in 2009 while the party was in financial straights.
Sink and Dockery were echoing sentiments from the Democrats hoping to replace McCollum next year as Attorney General. State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacers, and Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who are competing from the Democratic AG nomination, urged McCollum late last week to investigate the RPOF credit card flap.
“During these tough times, Floridians are demanding accountability and transparency from their elected officials,” Aronberg and Gelber wrote to McCollum in a Feb. 11 letter. “As you know over the past several weeks, the allegations of possible criminal activities have rocked the Republican Party of Florida and questions about the role elected officials had in these activities have arisen. These allegations…along with other statements from prominent Republican Party officials and leaders echoing such allegations demand a criminal investigation.
“As Florida's chief law enforcement officer, it is incumbent on you to formally request an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the possible criminal activity and public corruption surrounding the RPOF's secret contracts and credit cards,” the Democrats continued.
But McCollum hedged on Monday, saying the Democrats were trying to make political hay out of the situation and that he would not even consider an investigation until the RPOF chooses a new chair, which the party is expected to do this weekend.
“If I ask for any investigation, it would be FDLE, and that would be after a new chairman is elected,” he said. “We have a week to go. I think Sen. Aronberg and Gelber, with all due respect, are running for office and playing a little politics.”
McCollum did say that he hopes “there’s a thorough audit,” however.