Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | St. Petersburg Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: GOP refund request from Crist had a few holes

Though he officially declared his "independence" by leaving the Republican Party on May 12, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist says he won't return money contributed to his U.S. Senate campaign while he was running as a Republican.

"People gave to a good cause, and we're going to spend it on a good cause,'' Crist said minutes after switching his voter registration. "That's why I'm going to keep it. It's important to be able to get our message out and communicate with the people of Florida.''

The next day, in a wide-ranging interview with the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, the refund talk resurfaced.

This time, Crist discussed a letter he received from 20 Republican heavyweights asking for refunds. He suggested that the letter was more a stunt than a sincere request.

"I got a letter from 20 people who said they wanted their money back; 14 never gave me a penny," Crist told the Times, adding, "You gotta give it to me first before you can have the option."

We wanted to see if Crist is right.

The letter in question actually is published on Marco Rubio's Senate campaign website. It reads in part:

"We helped to support, and yes to bankroll, your political career. For years you have been asking us for money. And for years we have put our names and credibility on the line by asking our friends to donate to you. Those days are over.

"As part of your transition into this new phase of your political career, we respectfully request that you return every penny of donor money from every donor who asks for a refund. For those of us who have donated to your Senate campaign, you can start by refunding in full the contributions we have made.

"Recent reports with the Federal Elections Commission indicate your campaign is sitting on a stockpile of approximately $7.6 million dollars in contributions.

"Charlie, that is not your money."

The letter is signed by mainly Florida Republicans, including former Florida GOP chairman Al Cardenas, Outback Steakhouse executive Chris Sullivan, Palm Beach County GOP chairman Sid Dinerstein and former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Al Hoffman.

Palm Beach Post reporter Mike Bender quickly took the list of letter writers and compared it to the list of Charlie Crist's campaign contributors. He published the results of his analysis on the Post's political blog.

The analysis showed that of the 20 people listed on the letter, only nine actually donated to Crist's Senate campaign, and of the nine — Hoffman — got his contributions back in February 2010 (Hoffman asked for his money back in February over allegations of excessive spending by the Republican Party of Florida and Crist's handpicked chairman Jim Greer.)

PolitiFact Florida checked Bender's reporting by searching the Federal Election Commission's electronic campaign database and came up with the same number.

Here's a list of the signers and how much they contributed to Crist's campaign.

• Bill Becker, Vero Beach, $0

• Wayne Berman, Washington, D.C., $0

• Al Cardenas, Miami, $4,800

• Sid Dinerstein, Palm Beach Gardens, $0

• Ed Easton, Key Biscayne, $2,400

• Peter Feaman, Boynton Beach, $500

• Gay Gaines, Palm Beach, $0

• Phil Handy, Winter Park, $0

• Mike Hightower, Jacksonville, $0

• Charlie Hilton, Panama City, $0

• Ambassador Al Hoffman, North Palm Beach, $4,800

• Congressman Gary A. Lee, Fort Myers, $0

• Anita Mitchell, West Palm Beach, $0

• Tom Petway, Jacksonville, $2,400

• Ambassador John Rood, Jacksonville, $4,800

• Peter Rummell, Jacksonville, $4,800

• Frank Schwerin, Naples, $0

• Jason Steele, Satellite Beach, $0

• Chris Sullivan, Tampa, $4,800

• Jason Unger, Tallahassee, $2,400

Hilton did donate $2,000 to Crist's 1998 Senate campaign. The Post reported that one of the 20 to sign the letter, Gay Gaines of Palm Beach, hasn't donated to Crist in at least 15 years. She gave $2,400 this year to Rubio.

Crist, in his statement to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, is off a little bit by saying 14 of the 20 have asked for a refund. Actually, 11 never gave Crist "a penny" for his 2010 Senate campaign. And a 12th person had his money back before sending the letter to Crist. That's close enough, however, to rate Crist's claim Mostly True.

The statement

"I got a letter from 20 people who said they wanted their money back; 14 never gave me a penny."

Gov. Charlie Crist, May 13 in a meeting with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board.

The ruling

Actually, 11 never gave Crist "a penny" and a 12th had his money returned before the letter was sent. We call this Mostly True.

PolitiFact: GOP refund request from Crist had a few holes 05/30/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 30, 2010 9:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tiger Bay panel: End permanent revocation of voting rights for convicted felons


    TAMPA – A panel of elected officials and advocates including Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren argued in a forum Friday that Florida should end its practice of permanently revoking the voting rights of people convicted of felonies.

    Rep. Sean Shaw, D- Tampa, on the floor of the Florida House.[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  2. Temple Terrace Citizen of Year skips his awards banquet in protest of Confederate event


    TEMPLE TERRACE — Travis Malloy was supposed to show up to the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club on Thursday to pick up his Citizen of the Year award at the Chamber of Commerce banquet.

    Instead, Malloy stayed away in protest.

    Travis Malloy declined to collect his Citizen of the Year award at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club on Thursday to protest the club's decision to host a Southern Heritage event with a War on the South program Sept. 2. Malloy was honored for starting community gardens and a farmers market. [Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce]
  3. Editorial: Making tax increases harder would sentence Florida to mediocrity


    Florida has one of the lowest state tax burdens in the nation, a long list of unmet needs and a Republican-controlled state government that treats any talk of a tax increase as heresy. Yet Gov. Rick Scott wants voters to approve a constitutional amendment to make it even harder for the Legislature to raise taxes. That's …

    Gov. Rick Scott wants voters to approve a constitutional amendment to make it even harder for the Legislature to raise taxes. That’s election-year pandering, not leadership.
  4. What happens if you look at the eclipse without glasses? Want a hole in your vision?


    It's the burning question of the week.

    The solar eclipse Monday will be quite the Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson moment for Americans to share. The idea is to walk away without frying your eyeballs.

    Colton Hammer tries out his new eclipse glasses he just bought from the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City on Wednesday in preparation for the eclipse on Monday. [Scott G Winterton | Deseret News via AP]
  5. Waterspout forms between Caladesi and Dunedin


    A waterspout formed between Caladesi Island and Dunedin earlier today.

    A waterspout formed between Caladesi Island and Dunedin. [Photo via YouTube]