Dems shut down McCollum anti-corruption hotlineby Dara Kam | February 15th, 2010
Attorney General Bill McCollum continues to defer to GOP party leaders instead of ordering an investigation into possible criminal conduct regarding credit card abuses at the Republican Party of Florida.
McCollum today said he may ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the matter but that he would wait until the new chairman of the RPOF – expected to be Sen. John Thrasher – is elected this weekend.
Also today, Florida Democrats shut down McCollum’s anti-corruption hotline, filling up the 800 number’s voice mail in an effort to draw attention to McCollum’s refusal to investigate the credit card charges even after other top Republicans want the books opened.
McCollum said he won’t ask for inquiry until an audit of the RPOF is complete and he gets direction from the new party chairman to move although Gov. Charlie Crist last week said that party officials should open the books now.
“I’m waiting about what the new chairman might discover. I don’t see any evidence at this point of criminal behavior,” McCollum said today after a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business.
Former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer, who was forced to step down earlier this year, handed out the American Express credit cards to legislative leaders and made a public show of cutting his up last year.
But recent reports revealed that former RPOF Executive Director Delmar Johnson continued to use his and racked up thousands of dollars in charges, including $15,000 to charter a plane to Washington for U.S. Sen. George LeMieux’s swearing-in ceremony.
State Sen. Paula Dockery, who is running against McCollum in the GOP primary for governor, has pushed since November to make the credit card records public but said today she doesn’t know if an investigation is necessary.
“If those records had become part of the public record, even if it was just the executive committee, think of what we could have avoided. Now we’re here in February and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe there is no smoking gun. That would be great. I would welcome that. But if there isn’t, why not release them? Let’s get this behind us and move on,” Dockery, R-Lakeland, said after speaking at the NFIB event.
Meanwhile, three Democrats – including two state senators running for McCollum’s office – want the attorney general to investigate.
Democratic state Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach last week asked McCollum to look into possible public corruption or criminal abuse of the credit cards.
“As Florida’s chief law enforcement officer, it is incumbent on you to formally request an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the possible criminal activity and public corruption surrounding the RPOF’s secret contracts and credit cards,” the senators wrote to McCollum.
McCollum today dismissed their request as political posturing.
“I think Sens. Aronberg and Gelber, with all due respect, are running for office and are playing a little politics here,” McCollum said.
Party spending is also an issue in the criminal case against former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who had at least $173,000 in charges on his RPOF-issued credit card.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the top Democrat in the race for governor, said the Sansom evidence shows an “egregious abuse” of the credit cards and McCollum should do something.
“He’s the top cop. He ought to be looking into it,” Sink said.