The Florida Republican Party is in disarray, with two of its top operatives embroiled in financial scandals that threaten to derail the party's efforts to win seats in this year's mid-term elections.
Party Chairman Jim Greer is resigning after it was revealed that he had entered into a secret contract with a dummy corporation set up by the Florida GOP's executive director, Delmar Johnson. Under that agreement, Johnson would collect 10 percent of "all major donations" to the party, reports the St. Petersburg Times.
Greer and Johnson's spending on GOP credit cards has also come into question. Documents obtained by the Times and the Miami Herald show that, among other things, Johnson spent $15,000 on a chartered flight to attend the swearing-in of Florida's temporary senator, George LeMieux. Johnson spent $1,800 on in-flight catering. In all, the party's executive director racked up more than a million American Express points.
For his part, Johnson has been accused of padding his $100,000 salary as executive director with a $260,000 fundraising contract, on top of having charged $42,000 to the party for expenses.
"The revelations have rocked the once disciplined Florida GOP, which finds itself consumed with turmoil and controversy when it should be focused on electing Republicans," the Times reports.
Making it all worse is the fact that the Florida GOP was "hemorrhaging money" as Greer and Johnson reportedly padded their salaries with lavish spending.
In fact, last fall, "Greer made a show of rescinding the party credit cards of top elected officials and cutting up his American Express card last summer to stem criticism of party spending," the Times reports. But the spending continued.
Republican Florida lawmakers are distancing themselves from the scandal-plagued operatives.
Governor Charlie Crist has called for the party to release its credit card records. But the state's attorney general, Bill McCollum, who himself has gubernatorial ambitions, has disputed that, saying that the party's internal finances are its own business, the Associated Press reports.
The party operatives hoping to replace Greer as chairman are pushing for more transparency.
"It's time to come clean," state Sen. Paula Docker declared, arguing the party should release all its financial records.
The financial scandals could also have a negative effect on Gov. Crist, who hand-picked Greer for the state party chairman job. Crist admitted Tuesday that the revelation about Johnson "doesn't look good," and was noncommittal when asked if he still thought Greer was the right choice.
"Well, you know, I think originally he did a great job, worked very hard, and tried to do the very best that he could," Crist said, as quoted at Tampa Bay's Buzz blog.