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Politics

Florida Democrats' House of (Credit) Cards

May 27, 2010 - 6:00pm

While attacking the Republican Party of Florida for reckless credit-card expenditures, the Florida Democratic Party racked up plenty of charge card expenses of its own.

In 2008, the state Democratic Party paid $6,294 in "card member services," according to records obtained by Sunshine State News.

A group called "Florida Mainstream Forum" expended $20,057 for "ML Credit Card Services" and $3,223 to American Express in 2006, according to the reports.

The expenditures were generically listed for travel and "other disbursements."

Though listing specific dates and amounts of Florida Democratic Party spending, the party's spreadsheets raise several questions:

Whose names were on the cards?

Who did the expenditures benefit?

What were the itemized charges?

The Florida Democratic Party declined to answer these and other questions.

In attacking the Republican Party's liberal use of American Express credit cards under ousted RPOF Chairman Jim Greer, Democratic Party officials declared that the FDP did not use credit cards.

Yet the Democratic Party paid "cardmember services" for travel and meals, according to the financial reports.

The FDP also used debit cards from 2005-2009. Among the party's larger outlays:

  • A $50,000 deposit to Miami's Fontainbleau Hotel and $145,000 in total expenses for meetings.
  • $292,183 to Staples for office equipment.
  • $243,374 to Royal Performance Group for auto travel.
  • $28,044 for tickets on six airlines.

The disadvantage of debit cards is their inflexibility and relative insecurity in large, advance purchases. By contrast, credit cards more easily enable users to obtain prompt credits and to dispute fraudulent charges.

"I guess they never have unexpected flight changes or cancellations," mused a campaign analyst who examined the FDP records and asked not to be identified.

"If you run a statewide organization that spends millions of dollars a year, wouldnt you be concerned about fraud especially if you are ordering off websites? Would you really give webdomains4u.com access to your bank account information?" the analyst asked.

Democratic Party Communications Director Eric Jotkoff has refused to respond to questions about party spending.

Ironically, Democratic Party leaders opposed GOP legislators' efforts to bring more transparency into campaign financing. Senate Bill 880 would have more clearly defined where funds were raised and where they went, as well as more closely regulating party-related fund-raising activities.

At the urging of state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill.

Chief sponsor Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, blasted the governor's veto message, saying it "parroted the talking points of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink."

RPOF Chairman John Thrasher, state senator from Jacksonville, said he is hopeful that in the future the Florida House and Senate can work together with a Republican governor to again pass this important legislation.

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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