TALLAHASSEE — Charlie Crist's latest left turn has drawn the critical eye of the Republican Party of Florida.
Crist's campaign gift of a NASCAR sponsorship for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway triggered a formal complaint from the RPOF claiming the sponsorship's market value far exceeds the $3,000 limit for in-kind contributions to a statewide candidate.
Driver Josh Wise's No. 98 Ford will be covered with Crist for governor artwork during the nationally televised race Saturday. 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 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-car 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 by the GOP against Crist.