UPDATE: State GOP audit reveals lavish spending by former party chiefby Dara Kam | September 17th, 2010
UPDATE: Gov. Charlie Crist had this to say about the RPOF audit released today:
“I went to Disney World with my wife and my two stepdaughters and we paid for it ourselves.”
An audit of state GOP spending revealed that former party chief Jim Greer spent tens of thousands of dollars on lavish hotel rooms and trips unrelated to official business, including more than $5,000 on costs associated with his son’s baptism.
The audit, released to the public today, also found that the Republican Party of Florida picked up a $13,435.59 tab for a personal trip to Disney World Greer and his family took with Gov. Charlie Crist and his wife Carole and possibly her two daughters in June 2009.
Crist, who left the Republican Party this spring to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race, said earlier this week he had no idea about possible misspending on travel after Thrasher threatened to take Crist to court to recoup the money if Crist didn’t repay it.
But the audit showed that Crist and his wife and the Greers spent more than $13,000 on a personal holiday at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Hotel.
Greer also charged $10,992.17 on his RPOF-issued American Express card for three personal vacations to Fisher Island, including one in which Crist participated, the audit found. Carole Crist owns a home on the exclusive enclave.
Crist’s campaign responded with a statement demanding that his opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, release all of his credit card statements prior to the dates covered in the audit.
“Republican party bosses engaging in smear tactics to cover-up the wrongdoing of their own nominee? Shocking. Now that the bosses have ended their partisan charade, they must immediately release all of Marco Rubio’s credit card records dating back to when he was Speaker-Designate to determine the extent to which he charged the party for personal expenses like family reunions and real estate payments,” Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in an e-mail.
The audit found that the RPOF paid for $381,786.12 in charges unrelated to party business during Greer’s tenure from 2007-2009. That includes $10,000 paid to Erik Eikenberg, Crist’s former chief of staff.
Greer ordered the RPOF to pay Eikenberg’s company Groundgame Consulting $10,000 in two $5,000 installments in November and December 2009, shortly after Eikenberg left Crist’s office.
“This independent audit is affirmation of the despicable exploitation and gross financial mismanagement of donor funds that occurred at the Republican Party of Florida during the leadership of Charlie Crist and at the direction of his hand-picked chairman Jim Greer,” RPOF Chairman John Thrasher said in a statement.
Greer was forced to resign in January and was charged in June with fraud, theft and money laundering for his alleged misuse of party money. Greer has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence.