Crist refunds contribution from indicted ex-GOP chair

Holly Bailey
August 17, 2010

Gov. Charlie Crist has long refused to return contributions from Republican donors angry that he quit the GOP to run as an independent in Florida's Senate race, but now he's made an exception. Crist's campaign this week refunded $9,600 in donations from embattled former state GOP chair Jim Greer and his wife, after Greer wrote Crist a letter asking for the money back.

Greer, once a close ally of Crist's, was indicted in June on charges that he defrauded the state party of at least $100,000 in a fund-raising scheme he says the governor knew about. Crist has denied any wrongdoing and has since distanced himself from Greer. But as the Miami Herald's John Frank reports, Greer wrote Crist a letter on Aug. 5 asking if his family's contributions could be refunded to help pay for his legal defense.

"As you know circumstances have caused me to need money to defend myself and take care of my family," Greer wrote. "I know sending back money is hard, but with what has happened, it may be politically beneficial for you do to."  Nearly two weeks later, after inquiries from the media, Crist's campaign announced it would refund Greer's money.

The letter is also a reminder of the danger that Greer's trial, currently set for late October, could present for  Crist in the increasingly close Senate race. The Florida governor has so far escaped any fallout from the state GOP scandal, event though he and Greer were extremely close political allies. But Greer's letter does him no favors.

In the missive, which was apparently leaked to the media after Crist's campaign failed to promptly reply to Greer's appeal, Greer defends himself against allegations he stole money from the state GOP and trashes many of his Republican critics. But, in a passage suggesting that Greer could seek to use Crist as cover, the former GOP chair says he would have done anything for the governor.

"Over the last three years, I did all that I was asked to do by you and others. Your goals were my goals. When all others abandoned you, I remained loyal," Greer writes. "I hope you see there was never anyone more loyal to you than me, even when on so many occasions it was against my best interests."

That's hardly a connection Crist wants to brag about, especially as he tries to woo independent swing voters and Democrats this November. But Greer seems likely to drag the governor into this trial, whether Crist likes it or not.

(Photo of Crist by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)