Florida Gov. Charlie Crist officially left the Republican Party on Wednesday, the other shoe dropping when he changed his voter registration to “no party affiliation” to match his now independent U.S. Senate bid, which was made necessary by the prospect of being thrashed by challenger Mark Rubio, a Tea Party darling, in the G.O.P. Senate primary. But Christ, who at this moment leads his likely opponents for the open Senate seat in campaign funds, also announced that donors who contributed to his campaign thinking they were giving to a Republican are out of luck: he’s not returning the funds.
As an indication of his ethical principles, courage and integrity—or, rather, the lack of them—this decision alone is sufficient reason not to vote for Charlie Crist.
Crist had indicated otherwise in an April 30 interview with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough the day after he announced he quit the GOP primary, saying he would “probably” return contributions to donors who asked for them back. Breaking his word, however, is the least of the ethical offenses here. This is bait-and-switch at its worst. All Crist has on his side is the law, which has always allowed candidates to profit from contributions in various scenarios that would be right at home in “The Producers.” As far as basic ethical principles like fairness, responsibility, loyalty, equity, justice and citizenship are concerned, however, Crist’s keeping the money is indefensible.
Especially since his “defenses” are all Clintonian rationalizations. “They donated to the Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate campaign and it’s still the Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate campaign,” weasled a spokesperson for the campaign. “People gave to a good cause, and we’re going to spend it on a good cause,” Crist argued.
Uh-huh. People gave money to Charlie Crist, running as a Republican to put a Republican in the U.S. Senate. If any part of those conditions changed after the gift, donors are within their rights to request a refund because their money was obtained under a misrepresentation. They didn’t give to a generic “good cause,” and Crist cannot say that his party affiliation wasn’t a material factor if a betrayed donor believed it was. Crist might as well argue that the donations were all made to get a white-haired guy into the U.S. Senate. He knows his party affiliation makes a big difference to Republican donors. He knows that the ethical thing would be to offer to refund donations to any contributors who feel duped.
He just wants to keep the money. That’s just what we need in the Senate: another Senator who uses rationalization and self-interest to abandon principle for cash.
Give back the money, Charlie…or get lost.