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McCollum distances himself from RPOF controversy

Quietly last summer, incoming legislative leaders Sen. Mike Haridopolos and Rep. Dean Cannon came to Attorney General Bill McCollum with concerns about how the party was raising and spending money.

McCollum supported a solution: a separate bank account to collect campaign contributions that required two signatures -- not just RPOF Chairman Jim Greer's -- to spend money as a way to restore confidence in donors who knew about Greer's lavish spending habits. McCollum asked former House Speaker Alan Bense to lead the the effort.

The fund, named Florida Victory 2010, mirrored other party election efforts and drew little attention.

"This was a very concise arrangement and it segregated itself completely," McCollum said Tuesday, recounting the summer meeting.

Behind the scenes, McCollum is a key player in the controversy surrounding Greer and party executive director Delmar Johnson but he tried to stay clean.

"I tried to stay back from this other than looking at it and trying to promote some end product that is fair to everybody and that would get the party moving in the right direction," he said.

McCollum said soon after he learned of the contract that paid Johnson a combined $400,000-plus salary he questioned it's legality. He asked Richard Coates, the party's former attorney, to scrutinize it. Coates concluded it appeared to be a legal contract.

"It was on the face of it a perfectly legitimate contract," McCollum said. "Was it outrageous? Absolutely. Was it something that should have never been entered into? Yes. Was it illegal? There is no appearance of that."