The Republican Party of Florida came to Gov. Rick Scott's defense Friday after former state Senator Dan Gelber wrote a letter asking the governor to return a $110,000 contribution he received from an insurance startup that could get $52 million from the state-run insurance giant.
RPOF slammed Gelber, saying the Miami Beach Democrat was doing "dirty work" for former governor and potential 2014 candidate Charlie Crist. RPOF used the opportunity to ask Gelber about Crist's questionable "allies," including convicted felons Jim Greer and Scott Rothstein.
"Everyone knows that Dan Gelber and Charlie Crist are close allies and friends," RPOF chairman Lenny Curry said in a statment. "In fact, it's Dan Gelber who is shepherding Charlie Crist through through the Democratic Party. So it's no surprise that Dan Gelber is making a false, partisan attack on Governor Rick Scott."
Gelber immediately hit back at RPOF, which has received $30,000 in campaign contributions from the company in question, Heritage Insurance.
“When you’re caught with your hand in the cookie jar, my kids generally scream about every little (unrelated) thing they can,” he said. “Or they just wail like little babies. This what they call ‘Busted’.”
RPOF also tried to help Scott distance himself from the $52 million deal for Heritage, a St. Petersburg-based company that is one of the largest contributors to Scott's campaign this year. Scott's office has said that he did not influence Citizens board to act on behalf of his political contributor. RPOF echoed those sentiments, claiming that Citizens and the Office of Insurance Regulation operate mostly independently from Scott, who had "nothing to do" with the deal. (A Scott appointee to Citizens board made the motion to support the deal and was one of three board members voting for it in the 3-2 vote).
It's a sign of how politically divisive the issue of property insurance is in Florida. Gelber is considered a potential candidate for lieutentant governor should Crist get elected. Crist acted to freeze property insurance rates in 2007. Citizens has about 1.3 million policyholders, accounting for more than a fifth of all policies statewide. That translates into several million voters, many of whom have seen their property insurance rates skyrocket over the last few years.
Here's the full statement from RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry:
STATEMENT FROM RPOF CHAIRMAN LENNY CURRY:
"Everyone knows that Dan Gelber and Charlie Crist are close allies and friends. In fact, it's Dan Gelber who is shepherding Charlie Crist through through the Democratic Party. So it's no surprise that Dan Gelber is making a false, partisan attack on Governor Rick Scott. The facts show that the Governor has not been involved in any decision making regarding Citizens and Heritage. So here's my question for Gelber: where was he when Jim Greer, Scott Rothstein and Alan Mendelsohn were illegally raising, contributing and concealing money for Charlie Crist? My advice to Gelber is to relax and enjoy his Memorial Day weekend."