In an interview, Gov. Charlie Crist said he is growing increasingly disillusioned with how former Chairman Jim Greer and the Republican Party handled secret contracts and spent money on party credit cards.
“It’s a mess,” Crist said in an interview. “This thing stinks.”
“A federal comprehensive investigation is ... fully appropriate,” he added, crediting CFO Alex Sink for suggesting the idea. “Particularly because of the significant IRS implications throughout this thing.”
Asked what took him so long, after months of demands from Democrats and Republicans for a federal investigation, he said: "I think it was being handled appropriately at the outset, based on what we knew at the time, and as I just said, the more facts you become aware of, the more concerned somebody who is fair and honest would become. And its simply a matter of that process."
Crist also acknowledged he put Greer at the helm. "I take responsibility for that but I think that again, once you become aware of what the facts are. I think an appropriate response is absolutely what is required. And I think it's required."
Democrat CFO Alex Sink sent a letter to AG Bill McCollum (her gubernatorial rival) asking him to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate criminal activity at the Republican Party of Florida concerning former Chairman Jim Greer. This is the only way to avoid a conflict of interest, her letter states.
"It is only through a completely independent investigation that Floridians can have confidence that any criminal activity that may have occurred in the Republican Party will be properly addressed,” Sink said in a statement. “We need an independent prosecutor leading this investigation, and not a Cabinet agency.”
The request from Sink's office mirrors the one earlier in the week from Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman. McCollum played a key role in helping to oust Greer. When the party presented him with the latest audit showing the party paid a shell company Greer secretly owned, McCollum asked FDLE to investigate.
The most heated debate in Tallahassee today is expected to concern Sen. J.D. Alexander's plan to close two state-run prisons to populate the private Blackwater prison in the Panhandle.
Where do the three leading gubernatorial candidates stand on the issue?
Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum dodged the issue and CFO Alex Sink, a Democrat, wasn't available for comment. Only upstart Republican candidate Paula Dockery, a state senator from Lakeland, took a stand. She called the deal "outrageous" and demanded a more thorough vetting.
McCollum's office issued a non-answer: "The Legislature is in the very early stages of the budget process, and I know they are facing tough decisions. I encourage them to continue to make public safety a top priority as they move forward in budget negotiations." His office didn't respond to follow-up questions.
And Sink's office said they couldn't reach her Tuesday evening.
As the candidates avoid the issue, state lawmakers worked behind closed doors late Tuesday to strike a compromise on Blackwater and the cuts to the Department of Corrections.
March 31, 2010 in Alex Sink, Bill McCollum, Charlie Crist, Election 2010, Florida, Florida Attorney General, Florida Chief Financial Officer, Florida Governor, Florida Governor's Race, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, Florida State Budget, Florida State House, Florida State Senate , Jeff Atwater, Paula Dockery | Permalink | Comments (0)
Attorney General Bill McCollum’s decision to sue the federal government over health care reform looks like a political winner, according to a new poll showing that he has widened his lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race for governor.
The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey shows that 51 percent of registered Florida voters approve of McCollum’s lawsuit while 39 percent are opposed.
As the state appears to lean rightward, the Republican McCollum draws 49 percent support compared to the 34 percent who would vote for Sink, a Democrat, according to the poll of 625 registered Florida voters.
“The lawsuit probably gave McCollum a little lift and has put him in a strong position, but there’s more going on here,” said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.
“The numbers that jump out at me is that he’s peeling off 24 percent of Democrats. She only draws 3 percent Republican support,” Coker said. “Also, there’s no gender gap. That’s a problem for Sink. A Democratic woman can’t win without the strong support of women.”
The Republican Party of Florida sent a huge public records request to Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's office, looking for documents related to her former employer Bank of America and her husband, Bill McBride. The letter says the records are necessary to provide "full disclosure to the people of Florida in regards to state contracting" but political points are surely the main objective. For the request, read below.
This comes after Democrats requested documents about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum's ties to his former lobbying partner, David Rivkin, who is suing the federal government on behalf of the Attorney General's Office.
CFO Alex Sink blasted Attorney General Bill McCollum on Monday for using Florida tax dollars to file a lawsuit against the health care legislation.
"He seems to be obsessed by Washington politics and not really acting in the best interest of Floridians," said Sink, a Democrat. "It's unfortunate that he's using taxpayer money to file a suite on behalf of the people of the state of Florida when in fact this legislation is going to provide help for many, many Floridians."
Sink contended McCollum, her GOP gubernatorial rival, was "playing party politics" and objected to his questionable contract with his former business partner, David Rivkin and Lee Casey with Baker and Hostetler. She suggested he should have opened the contract bidding to other law firms, as his legislative priority concerning contingency fee contracts would mandate.
"Certainly that's not appropriate in a situation like this," she said. He should have sought proposals "as opposed to providing sweetheart contract to someone he is very close with."
McCollum dismissed the suggestion.
"We hired the best constitutional lawyer possible in David Rivkin," McCollum said. "I have known David Rivkin for a long time. He is an excellent constitutional lawyer."
A spokeswoman for McCollum's office said Florida is paying Rivkin part of a fee split among the dozen attorneys general who filed suit. The fee is $250 an hour but Florida's portion is still undetermined. Here's the contract, which puts a cap of $50,000 on the bill.
If Jeff Atwater's Senate has its way, the higher office he seeks will have unprecedented power over privatized prisons, billions of dollars in purchasing authority and the power to investigate Medicaid and food-stamp fraud.
The bills to expand the post of Florida Chief Financial Officer all come from Senate President Atwater's chamber -- but that's just a coincidence, say Atwater and the senators sponsoring the legislation.
Atwater said he would have supported the proposals even if he were not running for CFO, a Cabinet-level post.
``I certainly did not suggest [to senators], `hey, anything you've got that might fit under the CFO's role, I have a particular interest in.' Not at all,'' Atwater said. ``I did not weigh in.''
"I'm not the card,'' protested a flustered Senate President Jeff Atwater, asked by reporters if he would release the statements showing how he used his Republican party credit card. Trying his damndest not to be drawn into the party's credit card scandal, Atwater made it very clear that the card wasn't his and he was not the card.
But a call to American Express confirmed that in fact, Atwater could call a 1-800 number to get copies of the statements if he so chose. So could all of the cardholders -- incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, et al -- if they were really interested in showing party donors that they have been spending their money wisely. Column here.
Senate President Jeff Atwater, a frontrunner for state Chief Financial Officer, says he has no problem with folks seeing his Republican Party of Florida credit cards. But he's not pushing RPOF to release them. Will he ask AmEx for copies? Watch the response in this back-and-forth: