Crist cancels inaugural ball following criticism
Gov. Elect Charlie Crist decided Saturday to cancel plans (full story) for a costly inaugural ball, saying he made a mistake in approving a plan asking for donations of up to $500,000 to pay for inaugural events (read previous story).
“I made a mistake, and yes, it was a doozy,” Crist said.
Instead of capping off Inauguration day January 2 with a fancy ball, Crist said he’ll go ahead with plans to have a prayer breakfast and open the governor’s mansion to the public.
Last week the Times reported that Republican donors were asked to make donations of $50,000, $100,000 or $500,000 to gain tickets, autographed photos of Crist, engraved cuff links and a silk tie commemorating the event.
“Upon reflection, it doesn’t feel right to me when there are people having trouble paying their insurance bills and making ends meet,” Crist told a St. Petersburg Times reporter. “When I was a child, my grandfather told me every pencil has an eraser for a reason. It’s a good lesson, I’m not perfect.’’
Crist said he will send back the large contributions already made, and limit contributions to something in the range of those collected by Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush set a $5,000 limit for his first inaugural in 1999, and upped it to $10,000 for his second one four years later.
Crist said he’ll use the money to defray any expenses for other activities associated with his inauguration, but said he doesn’t know yet what the total cost will be.
Donations posted on Crist’s campaign web site, www.charliecrist.com, indicate his inaugural team already collected $265,000, including a $100,000 contribution from Trigeant Air, a Boca Raton aviation company and $50,000 each from U.S. Sugar and The Geo Group, a private prison company.
The committee also received $25,000 each from A. Duda & Sons, a large agriculture company, and Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate, a law firm in Fort Lauderdale with insurance clients.
Crist’s decision came as some Floridians raised questions about the expenditure of so much money for a party and on the day a Times columnist questioned the tone the huge contributions would set in his new administration (read column).
— LUCY MORGAN, Times Senior Correspondent