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Florida GOP scandal could hurt Attorney General Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s gubernatorial campaign is running well, but a GOP scandal could hurt.

Associated Press

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s gubernatorial campaign is running well, but a GOP scandal could hurt.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum has had a nice ride recently, as Democrat Alex Sink has struggled to find a coherent message and had a series of campaign staff shakeups.

But one issue to keep an eye on is how the ongoing Florida GOP scandal and lawsuit over secret contracts, lavish spending and the ouster of former chairman Jim Greer plays out. Among those pushing for reform and transparency in the state GOP, Attorney General McCollum appears to be close to the back row:

• McCollum was among the last party leaders to publicly call for Greer's resignation amid allegations of financial mismanagement.

• Florida's top cop had long dismissed any need for a criminal investigation after revelations chairman Greer and executive director Delmar Johnson had executed a secret, lucrative contract for Johnson. McCollum had known about the contract for weeks, but said it was best handled internally after consulting another state party attorney. He changed his mind as the controversy failed to quiet down.

• McCollum also was aware of secret negotiations for a severance package for Greer, and Greer said McCollum specifically signed off on it.

"Bill McCollum brought a broom to RPOF headquarters, but only to sweep things under the rug," said Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland, the underdog in the GOP Republican primary. "The people of Florida deserve answers about how their chief law enforcement officer acts when he thinks no one's watching. The last thing they want is a candidate who secretly negotiates a six-figure deal for a kingpin who claims to have made McCollum the presumptive nominee."

Sink, meanwhile, helped encourage federal investigators to get involved, rather than leave it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"Bill McCollum was Jim Greer's hand-picked candidate for governor, and McCollum refused to call for an immediate investigation months ago," the Sink campaign said recently. "Bill McCollum knew about this contract since January, yet he stalled an FDLE investigation and still hasn't called for a special prosecutor to look into this contract and the other scandals at the Republican Party of Florida."

Dockery: Money not an issue

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dockery says she raised $287,000 in the last fundraising quarter, bringing her total raised to date to about $580,000, compared to roughly $5 million for McCollum and $6 million for Sink.

The Dockery campaign said she also loaned her campaign another $180,000, bringing the total to $280,000.

"People need to know that I am committed to winning this race and that money will not be an issue for this campaign. We will have the resources to make a powerful case with our common-sense message about fixing the economy, getting people back to work and restoring the public's trust in Florida's government," Dockery said.

Storms on TV

Check out state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com and is AdamSmithTimes on Twitter.

Winner

of the week

Charlie Crist. Okay, so Crist raised less than one-third as much money as Marco Rubio did so far this year, he had to bat down widespread speculation that he may drop out of the primary and run as an independent, and he infuriated some fellow Republicans by vetoing a "leadership fund" bill and backpedaling on his support for the controversial teacher tenure bill. But we're viewing the glass as one-quarter full rather than three-quarters empty: Charlie Crist also happened to look this week like a leader — a player in the doings in Tallahassee and a governor actively engaged in the debate — which has not been the norm for Crist.

Loser

of the week

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos. At a time when the Florida GOP is reeling in criminal investigations of party leaders and top donors and every week brings new accounts of obscene party spending, Haridopolos thought the timing was perfect to start allowing fundraising slush funds for legislative leaders. He was so mad about Crist's veto, you'd have thought his taxpayer-funded university job had been cut from the budget.

Florida GOP scandal could hurt Attorney General Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign 04/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 6:45pm]
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