Lawsuit claims indicted ex-GOP chair spent party funds to boost Crist’s Senate campaign

Holly Bailey
August 19, 2010

Charlie Crist could be facing more fallout from his ties to an ex-Florida GOP chairman implicated in a party fundraising scandal.

A former state GOP employee has filed a lawsuit against the Republican Party of Florida claiming she was wrongfully terminated after she reported financial misdealing by ex-chairman Jim Greer. Greer was indicted earlier this summer on charges that he defrauded the state GOP of at least $100,000 in party money — a claim he's denied.

But the employee, Susan Wright, also makes another damaging allegation in her suit, claiming that Greer diverted state party funds to boost Crist's Senate campaign against then-primary challenger Marco Rubio. In April, with polls showing him losing the primary to Rubio, Crist quit the GOP to run as an independent in the state's open Senate race.

According to Florida Today's Bill Cottrell, a state GOP spokeswoman denied Wright's charge that she was fired for being a whistleblower, but she admitted an auditor is looking into possible campaign law violations.

The allegations come just days after Crist agreed to refund nearly $10,000 in contributions to Greer and his wife. At one time, Greer was one of Crist's closest allies — a fact he cited repeatedly in a letter that he sent to the Florida governor's campaign earlier this month. Greer has said Crist knew about and approved of the fundraising agreement he and a former aide set up with the state GOP that led to him being charged with racketeering and fraud — an allegation Crist has denied.

Wright's lawsuit does not suggest Crist knew of any state party funding being spent on his campaign. (A Crist spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.) Technically, a state party spending cash on a candidate is not illegal — even in a contested primary. But such spending could be in violation of campaign laws, if it wasn't properly reported. Publicly, the party had said it was neutral on the Crist/Rubio matchup.

All told, it's another bad headline for Crist, who has tried — and failed — to distance himself from Greer and his troubles.

(Photo of Crist:  Chris O'Meara/AP)