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Elections complaint filed against Charlie Crist for ad shot in public school


Charlie Crist is now facing an elections complaint over an ill-advised campaign ad filmed at the public high school that is his alma mater.

First came the revelation that the ad shot at St. Petersburg High violated Pinellas school district rules prohibiting the use of their property for political purposes. The school's administrators had given Crist permission to shoot the ad, but they shouldn't have. Soon after, the school system's lawyer asked Crist to stop running the ad. 

Today, the Republican Party of Florida announced it has filed an official complaint about Crist's ad to the Florida Elections Commission. The crux of the argument, according to GOP spokeswoman Susan Hepworth, is that "Crist improperly used school staff and administration resources to produce the ad, and the ad creates the impression that the school endorsed Crist."

Crist's campaign accused the GOP of playing politics while ignoring that Gov. Rick Scott also stands accused of misusing public resources -- the powerful optics of campaigning with uniformed officers in his case -- for partisan reasons. A police union official filed an elections complaint against Scott about that Tampa event.

"Unlike Rick Scott, who misled police officers to get them to participate in a campaign event, we requested and received permission from the school to shoot the ad," Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said via email. "... The real reason the Scott campaign doesn't want folks seeing this ad is because the truth hurts and they don't want Floridians to know that Rick Scott cut education by $1.3 billion and slashed Bright Futures scholarships in half."