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The $2.5-million populist bash

The more half-million-dollar special-interest checks that are cashed in his name, the tougher it's going to be for Gov.-elect Charlie Crist to play the role of populist.

Crist's $2.5-million inaugural festivities next month would seem garish enough by their bottom line, but his committee is financing the affair with contributions as large as $500,000. In other words, companies and lobbyists that wish to do business with the next administration are being hit up big-time.

When asked to square the shakedown with his promise to be the "people's governor," Crist scrambled for cover in Sherwood Forest. The big checks, he said, will make activities more affordable for the little people. But even Robin Hood will have to fork out $100 to get into the inaugural ball.

Crist has such a pleasant manner with all kinds of people and a knack for condemning big utility companies that his prodigious fundraising has so far managed to escape serious scrutiny. But he is about to become governor after having raised a record $19-million in campaign contributions, and big money has historically corroded good government.

Crist will have time to prove that the money will not buy his official favor, but he shouldn't kid himself about the image here.

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