Flashing the party card opened limousine doors, bought gifts at Harrods in London, Toys R Us or Best Buy. It provided a seemingly bottomless coffee cup at Starbucks.
In all, about $458,000 in AmEx charges like these were racked up by former House Speaker Marco Rubio, his now-indicted successor, Ray Sansom, and the man set to lead the chamber in November, Dean Cannon, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times computer analysis of Republican Party of Florida credit card statements for a nearly two years ending in 2009.
The part-time lawmakers paid for little of it. Republican Party of Florida donors -- mostly corporate interest seeking favorable legislation from lawmakers -- picked up most of it. Though some of the records have been reported, the credit-card statements of the three party leaders viewed together offer a window into the world of public officials conducting private, partisan business.
The Republican Party has refused to release the billing statements, but the paperwork has leaked out amid criminal investigations connected to party donors and a civil lawsuit involving former party Chairman Jim Greer. Gov. Charlie Crist's handpicked leader, Greer was ousted in January after leading the party to its zenith of power and spending -- a mirror of the Republican National Committee.
``All the spending, all the charges and the nice hotels and dinners just don't cast the image of good fiscal management, either in Florida or in Washington,'' said Tom Slade, Republican Party of Florida chairman from 1993 to 1999.