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Gov. Crist vetoes leadership fund bill

Gov. Charlie Crist drew a political line in the sand Tuesday, confirming he will reject legislation re-creating leadership funds under the control of a handful of a few powerful lawmakers. Such funds were outlawed two decades ago, but powerful GOP lawmakers want to revive the funds, which they hoped to use to solicit unlimited soft money donations, outside the political party structure, to help allies get elected. 

The bill (HB 1207) was such a priority of Republican legislative leaders that it was the first major piece of legislation they sent to Crist this session. Crist told the Times/Herald that in "this climate," by which he refers to a criminal probe of former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer, it's not a good time to be putting his stamp of approval on more political fund-raising activity.

Crist's veto will be viewed in some quarters as seeking to distance himself from political business as usual at a time when he is trailing Marco Rubio in polls in the U.S. Senate race.  

"In this climate, I'm just concerned about sort of putting a stamp of approval, if you will, on those kinds of funds," Crist said. "I don't think it's the right thing to do nor the right time to do it."

He added: "I think there is such a level of concern by the people right now about those kinds of funds, I just have a hard time putting my name on it ... There's got to be a better way to do this. These (leadership funds) did not go away 20 or 21 years ago because they were viewed as a wonderful thing."

-- Steve Bousquet