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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How Fla House leaders lived big on plastic



From Marc Caputo's story today: ...The current and former lawmakers won't say what every card expense was for, but they and their spokesmen maintain that the money was properly spent for political party business — raising money from major donors and holding strategy meetings to influence elections and maintain power in the Legislature.

Often, those meetings were close to home for (Dean) Cannon. He charged $5,406 in 58 visits to Houston's Restaurant in Winter Park, about 2.7 miles from his home. On 18 other occasions, Cannon dropped a total of $9,220 at Ruth's Chris Steak House, 3.2 miles from his home....

Cannon's biggest single charge card expense: $19,151 for Malone Aircharter, a jet service that, Cannon said, ferried him and other lawmakers to a New York fundraiser for the Florida party in December 2006. Rubio and Sansom were also at the fundraiser. All three stayed at the Bryant Park Hotel and together spent about $775.

About the time of the fundraiser, the party accepted donations of $217,000 from health interests, the real-estate industry, cable companies and telecommunications firms — whose interests became major issues in the following legislative session.

Longtime Republican fundraisers like Al Hoffman say the purpose of the fundraiser might have been legitimate, but some of the expenses were too "lavish'' and hard to justify.

"When they do the fancy wining and dining, they do it for themselves. Same with jet charters," Hoffman said. "For those guys to charter a jet, when there's commercial air service available, is really the height of misuse."

Hoffman said lawmakers have to spend money to raise money. But, "when you see a five-star hotel or a $1,000 dinner, that's ridiculous … little piggies at the trough."


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:27am]


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