When John Thrasher took the helm of the Florida GOP nearly 10 months ago, he pledged to usher in a new era of transparency, open communication, and working hand in hand with grass roots leaders of the Florida GOP. But now, some Republicans are irked that Thrasher failed to tell them about a federal subpoena for state party financial records.
"I'm on the board and I didn't know anything about these subpoenas,'' fumed Pinellas state committeeman Tony DiMatteo, who like many party leaders learned of the subpoenas in the St. Pete Times/Miami Herald, more than a month after the party received them. "I'm just upset that there's no transparency at the party level, after it was promised...It's like the Who song: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Nassau County Republican State Committeeman Doug Adkins said he was initially concerned about the subpoena and emailed fellow Republicans about it. But, he said, his mind was put at ease after he talked to the party's legal team. They told him the subpoena didn't concern the party itself and asked for documents "already in the public domain on the Secretary of State's website," such as a September audit. He said he understood Thrasher didn't release information about the audit "because it's not that big of a deal."
"There's nothing new," Adkins said. "I'm satisfied this is a follow-up request. I'm satisfied with the answers I've received."
The party's executive director, Ronnie Whitaker, issued a written statement praising Thrasher: "Chairman Thrasher has gone to extraordinary lengths to increase transparency and accountability after Jim Greer’s disastrous tenure. Under Thrasher’s leadership, the Board now receives both a legal update and a detailed financial briefing during every Board meeting, and reviewed and voted on the public release of both credit card statements and the forensic investigation. Additionally thanks to the Chairman’s reforms, an ad hoc committee of distinguished business leaders extensively reviews RPOF governing and oversight procedures, and the Audit Committee even reviews expense reimbursement requests for the Chairman and Executive Director.”
Still, Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein, another potential successor to Thrasher, said a number of party leaders are angry about being kept out of the loop, and that he said qualms about the party apparently paying for the defense attorneys for consultants and legislative leaders.
"We don't necessarily have to defend their position," said Dinsterstein, who gives Thrasher plenty of praise overall. "If and when i become chairman, believe me I will sort it all out.''
Pasco state committeeman Bill Bunting among those party leaders livid about having to hear of it in the newspaper: "We had a tremendously terrible experience with former chairman Jim Greer. when that guy was out transparency was supposed to come into play and everything was supposed to be up front. If everything was up front why didn't we know about this? Everybody on the executive board should have known about this."
DiMatteo said he could understand keeping it quiet while lawyers were consulted or if the subpoenas came in before election day and could damaged Republican candidates, but not under these circumstances. Making it clear he viewed it as a potential issue in the race for GOP chairman, Di Matteo pointedly asked what state GOP vice chairman Deborah Cox-Roush knew: "Either she knew and she didn't tell us, or she's out of the loop."
Cox-Roush, another candidate for state chairwoman, has not returned calls today.