Over the past year, we’ve seen example after example of Florida GOP leaders using party credit cards for lavish personal spending — from an $839 Starbucks bill to a $134 haircut and, now, a new allegation that the party chair used official funds to enrich himself.
Yesterday, we passed along the news that former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is under criminal investigation for allegedly awarding himself a lucrative party fundraising contract.
But this is only the latest spending scandal, so it’s worth looking back at the other revelations that have rocked the state party and ensnared Florida’s top Republicans, including both candidates for U.S. Senate: Gov. Charlie Crist, who picked Greer to be party chair, and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, whose own spending habits have become a political problem.
Here are the highlights:
Yesterday the party accused Greer of possible “illegal criminal activity” for awarding a party fundraising contract to a company owned by Greer himself and Executive Director Delmar Johnson. Under the contract, Victory Strategies, LLC, was paid a 10% cut on all money raised, and the pair were paid roughly $200,000 in 2009. The matter, which came to light during an audit ordered following previous questions about use of party money, is currently under criminal investigation. Greer denies wrongdoing.
Despite the scandal swirling around Greer when he stepped down in January, top party officials offered him a fat severance package that included $124,000 in consulting fees for another year of work, the Miami Herald is reporting today. The Herald further reports that, according to Greer’s lawyer, “associates” of the incoming state Senate president and speaker of the House offered Greer $200,000 in “hush money” to keep quiet about the severance package. The lawyer for the state GOP dismisses this claim.
In August, Greer publicly snipped up his AmEx credit with a pair of scissors. “No more American Express cards issued to leadership under this chairmanship,” he declared at a state party meeting. But the Herald and the Times found that spending continued on Johnson’s card for expenses such as a $100 flower arrangement for the wives of Greer and Gov. Charlie Crist, as well as $1,800 for “in-flight catering services.”
Marco Rubio, now the conservative darling candidate for U.S. Senate, was given a GOP American Express card in 2007 and 2008 while he was speaker of the Florida House. During that time, he routinely used the card for personal expenses, includign a notorious $134 haircut and about $4,000 to repair his damaged family minivan and rent a car for several weeks, the Herald *and *St. Petersburg Times reported.
At the same time, Rubio’s former chief of staff, Richard Corcoran, reportedly used a party credit card on tens of thousands in questionable expenses, including “$1,200 for handcrafted chairs for top Republican officials and $6,773 at a Georgia resort for a Rubio family reunion.”
Former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who is facing criminal charges of perjury and official misconduct in a separate scandal, reportedly spent about $175,000 on the credit over a two-year period. Among the more eye-popping charges:: $1,953 for tuxedo rentals, $11,475 at Best Buy, $839 at Starbucks, and other charges for babysitting and plane tickets for a family trip to Europe.