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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Politics at heart of criminal investigations swirling across Florida

Gov. Charlie Crist often laments "this culture of corruption in South Florida," but increasingly it's Tallahassee that looks like a central focus of multiple criminal investigations swirling about Florida.

In recent weeks, prominent legislators have hired criminal defense lawyers, while high-ranking and low-ranking GOP staffers have been summoned to grand juries meeting across the state.

Among them: Crist's former top money-raiser, Meredith O'Rourke; former state GOP executive director Jim Rimes; and indicted ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom's former fundraising aide, Melanie Phister, who at age 25 charged nearly $1.3 million on her state party credit card.

Amid the most tumultuous and unpredictable election year Florida has seen in decades, the names of at least a dozen political figures have popped up in five major federal investigations probing the pay-to-play culture of corruption in Florida. (story here)

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:40am]

    

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