MARCH 23, 2009
The big-state governor who promised unprecedented transparency in his administration refuses to disclose what influential donors are paying for his many private jet rides around the country.
A local newspaper reports that Florida Governor Charlie Crist was ferried around in private jets about 100 times in the last few years but he won’t reveal who owns the planes or who paid for the costly trips. The famously tanned Republican governor took the jets to get to concerts, dinners, sporting events and political appearances.
Florida taxpayers dish out $3.5 million a year for two state planes to take the governor and other high-level officials wherever government business takes them. Crist has flown on those planes more than 270, but he can’t use them for political or personal business.
That’s where his wealthy friends and donors step in. While the governor’s office claims it has no records of the flights, the newspaper that broke the story pieced them together. The majority of the planes Crist used are owned by a doctor whose company has a $230 million contract to provide health care to state workers and a shady Republican fundraiser recently indicted for steering illegal campaign contributions to various politicians, including Crist.
Crist appointed the doctor (Steven Scott) to the board of trustees of a major Florida university last year. The Republican fundraiser, Delray Beach defense contractor Harry Sargeant, is a longtime friend and college fraternity brother of Crist’s who donated tainted money to Crist and John McCain’s failed presidential campaign (McCain returned $50,000 of it). Sargeant’s companies have an oil operations lease at a north Florida port and defense contracts worth more than $1 billion.
Ironically, when Crist was a state senator he criticized then Governor Lawton Chiles for accepting several dozen fights on private jets to watch football games and go hunting. At the time Crist said the “whole thing smells” and called for all elected officials to fully disclose private flights. During his inaugural address a few years ago, Crist reminded the public that the Constitution requires government to be open and transparent, adding that under his administration it “will be like never before.”
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