Nearly a month after accused Ponzi schemer and mega-Charlie Crist fundraiser Scott Rothstein was charged with racketeering, Crist reversed himself Friday and said he'd give up all contributions made by Rothstein's lawyers. That's at least $84,000.
When will he give up the cash? "not very long at all," Crist told the Miami Herald's editorial board Friday. "As quickly as possible...as soon as we determine who they are. I don't think it's going to take that long."
The federal charges against Rothstein allege that he might have illegally reimbursed some lawyers at his firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, for making campaign contributions. Also, the feds allege, the firm's payroll was suffused with ill-gotten gains from Rothstein scams.
So money flowing to politicians could be dirty in one of two ways.
Here's how Senate President Jeff Atwater reacted to the news about the potentially tainted contributions: ""We’re returning all of it. It’s just going back. Absolutely."
Not so with Crist.
First, he said Dec. 1 that he'd only return the cash "if there's evidence that indicates [wrongdoing]." Turns out, Crist didn't think the federal charges were evidence enough at the time. He clarified the next day saying: "We might depending on the facts."
Crist noted it was an "alleged Ponzi scheme," not a proven Ponzi scheme.
Crist notes now that he didn't have a "crystal ball" and therefore didn't know Rothstein might have been corrupt.
"I'm not clairvoyant. Wish I were but I'm not. Neither was Alex Sink," he said, noting that the state's Democratic CFO and governor's candidate also got Rothstein money that she long ago pledged to to return.
” I don't think voters fault me because I am not clairvoyant and can't tell when some is going to go bad. I don't think it's an issue in the campaign.
Q: What changed your mind?
Crist: "It's not that much of a change. If in fact I believe that they were business associates, and may have gotten in their employment with the firm the opportunity to contribute than yes I will return it..."
Q: Are you returning all the RRA money?
Crist: “I think anybody who was employed by the firm ought to fall into that category...as soon as our accountants can determine who those folks are."