As Florida GOP financial mess deepens, Crist asks for federal probe

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist asked federal authorities Friday to investigate the Republican Party of Florida amid growing concerns about secret deals and misspent money.

"It's a mess,'' he said. "This thing stinks.''

In an interview, Crist said the U.S. attorney's office needs to take over the criminal investigation of former Chairman Jim Greer and examine the use of party credit cards by top GOP lawmakers.

"A federal comprehensive investigation is . . . fully appropriate,'' the Republican governor said. ``Particularly because of the significant IRS implications throughout this thing.''

Crist's call for federal intervention followed a similar request from Florida Chief Financial officer Alex Sink in a letter to the state attorney general Friday.

The prospect of a federal investigation will intensify the scrutiny of the state Republican Party, which is reeling from the discovery this week that Greer siphoned party donations to a shell company he owned and the disclosure that top officials planned to pay him a $125,000 golden parachute if he resigned.

At the same time, new records obtained by the Times/Herald expose how another top GOP lawmaker -- incoming Speaker Dean Cannon -- used a party credit card to charge $200,000 in a two-and-a-half-year period ending in early 2009.

The charges include more than $3,000 in personal expenses, some of which he didn't reimburse until just weeks ago as controversy swirled around the use of party credit cards.

For Crist, his statements represent a reversal from his ardent support of Greer, who he handpicked for the chairmanship and supported to the end, despite demands dating back to December for Greer's dismissal and a thorough investigation.

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