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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist's race-car sponsorship draws GOP elections complaint

The shiny new Charlie Crist-sponsored racer in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway has drawn the critical eye of the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed a formal complaint, claiming the sponsorship's market value far exceeds the $3,000 limit for an in-kind contribution to a statewide candidate.

Driver Josh Wise's No. 98 Ford will be covered with Crist for governor artwork during the nationally televised race on TNT. Wise's car is owned by Mike Curb, a musician and record company executive and former lieutenant governor of California (one of Crist's friends, Mitch Bainwol, is a former Washington lobbyist for the Recording Industry Association of America).

The complaint, filed by RPOF executive director Juston Johnson with the Florida Elections Commission, says a previous corporate sponsorship of a Josh Wise car cost $55,000. Johnson also quotes an online post by Wise in which the driver said, "We try to get 55-60K per race."

"Nice try," said a Crist campaign spokesman, Brendan Gilfillan, who said the GOP got its facts wrong: The sponsorship was an in-kind contribution to Crist's political committee, Charlie Crist for Florida, which is not subject to the $3,000 limit. "We appreciate them drawing more attention to the car, though," he said.

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign noted that the official car-by-entry list on NASCAR's website lists the sponsor as "Charlie Crist for governor." The name of Crist's political committee is Charlie Crist for Florida -- but the actual lettering on the car itself says "Charlie Crist for Florida 2014."

It's the fourth election-law complaint Republicans have filed against Crist.

A couple of possible omens: Mike Curb's late-60's pop group, the Mike Curb Congregation, had an obscure him in 1971 with the song Burning Bridges (a phrase that might be familiar to Crist). And is 98 a lucky number for Crist? Well, '98 was the year Crist was the Republican sacrificial lamb against U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, and he got 39 percent of the vote.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 6:16pm]


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