The former state speaker of the House has always been a darling of the Republican right, but polls show that he's making inroads even with
If you were running Rubio's campaign these days, you could practically sit back and let the anti-Charlie commercials write themselves. The first would be a montage of headlines about the governor's tainted fundraising.
Rothstein donated piles of money to different candidates, but Crist was one of his faves. The lawyer, his business associates and law firm employees raised at least
For his generosity, Rothstein was rewarded by Crist with an appointment to the
This year Rothstein and his circle already raised roughly
Crist says he has no special relationship with the lawyer, yet he attended Rothstein's wedding reception. Try donating
A prolific political money pump, Sargeant shrank from the public view in February after his initials turned up in a federal indictment accusing a Jordanian national of illegally steering campaign donations to Crist and three U.S. presidential candidates.
The accused, Ala'a al-Ali, worked for a shipping company owned by Sargeant. At the time of the indictment, Crist said he knew nothing about Al-Ali's fundraising on his behalf.
Last but not least is
Prosecutors say Mendelsohn bragged to the businesses that hired him that he could even bribe the governor, but they found no evidence it was true. Mendelsohn, who has pleaded not guilty, heaped money on both Democrats and Republicans.
But, like Rothstein and Sargeant, he enjoyed a tighter relationship with Crist than Crist is eager to acknowledge.
Mendelsohn held fundraisers for the governor, and even used cloaked political committees in a media attack against at least one Crist rival.
Crist showed his gratitude by appointing the eye doctor to his gubernatorial transition team in 2007. When Mendelsohn's son applied to the
Politicians save those sorts of favors for the heavy hitters who bankroll their campaigns.
It was soon after the Mendelsohn indictment that Crist called for a new statewide grand jury to crack down on political corruption.
Whether it was some sort of epiphany or he was just trying to appear outraged is up for debate.
From the Panhandle to the Keys, corruption blooms as exuberantly as a venereal rash.
"It's obvious to me," Crist said, "that something's wrong with the system."
No kidding, Charlie. What's wrong with the system is that politicians like you cuddle up to any big-talking hustler with a fat checkbook, and then scuttle for cover when he gets busted.
Which brings us back to
Earlier this year, Rubio's big kickoff fundraiser was held at the
Unfortunately, there's still no test for hindsight.
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(c) 2009 Carl Hiaasen