Two Democratic aspirants for the attorney-general post in the state of Florida are challenging the Republican incumbent to investigate an alleged credit-card scandal committed by the local GOP.
Senators Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) and Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) are calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into charges that the Florida GOP skirted a 2005 ban on gift-giving to lawmakers by giving out credit cards to them.
Aronberg and Gelber, who are both aspiring for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general, asked Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum for a criminal investigation of the state GOP's lavish spending practices and covert fundraising agreements, which they learned through a weeklong series of media reports.
As a candidate for governor and party head, McCollum has been at the center of attempts to address the local GOP's scandals. He was behind moves to oust ex-party chairman Jim Greer and executive director Delmar Johnson after he discovered last month that both entered into a clandestine fundraising contract.
However, McCollum indicated that any investigation should not precede the election of a new GOP chairman by Feb. 20. McCollum further stated in a campaign press release that he shared the outrage about the published revelations on the lavish spending and extravagant deals and would back charges against them before the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Greer, who was chosen by Gov. Charlie Crist to lead the Florida GOP, had been criticized for his luxurious spending - from booking chartered planes to eating at fancy restaurants - as the party's donors were reducing their dole-outs due to the recession.
In early 2009, Greer had enlisted Johnson as party executive director, and signed a contract that guarantees a 10 percent commission of all major donor contributions in addition to a $153,000 salary. The Orlando Sentinel revealed the contract, which paid Johnson a total of $199,000, through a shell entity named Victory Strategies.
Gelber indicated that everyone knew of the practice of some GOP lawmakers using credit cards to pay for meals and travel. Gelber said former House Speaker Ray Sansom incurred $173,000 in charges, which includes the cost of his European family vacation two years ago.
The Florida Democratic Party does not issue credit cards to members.
Gelber added that McCollum has a responsibility to address these issues and not ignore them. Above all, it is McCollum's party and he should clean its ranks, he said.
These revelations sparked other disclosures on lawmakers' lavish spending using their party-issued credit cards.
Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) revealed that as many as half of all her GOP colleagues in the Florida Senate have been issued credit cards, which they use for travel and meals.