Charlie Crist cancels Inaugural Ball by Mitch E. Perry

12/11/06

As criticism reigned down on him, Florida Governor –Elect Charlie Crist announced over the weekend that he was canceling plans for his inaugural ball, saying that he didn't feel right about an expensive party when many people are struggling with higher insurance and property tax bills

Other free events, including a prayer breakfast, parade, the swearing-in ceremony and tours of the governor's mansion will still continue.

Crist's inaugural committee is also returning all donations it's received, including $100,000 from Trigeant Air, an aviation company , and $50,000 each from the GEO Group, a private prison company and the U.S. Sugar Corp.

University of Central Florida Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett says that Crist’s political instincts finally kicked in – albeit later than it should (roll tape#1 o.q.� first major decisions’)

Crist, who campaigned as “The People’s Governor�, had been getting hammered by state editorial writers for days – but until Saturday had said that he had no problem for also giving freebies, including VIP seats and engraved gold cuff links to big-money donors.

But that changed Saturday afternoon. USF-ST. Pete Political Science Professor Daryl Paulson said it was the right move by Crist (roll tape#2 o.q.�a bad idea�)

Ben Wilcox is with Common Cause Florida. He says the contributions that Charlie Crist was asking for up until this weekend for his Inaugeral were exorbitant (roll tape#3 o.q. “in Florida Government�)

As the negative backlash began, Crist denied that corporations providing large donations would get any special favors in the Governors mansion, and he announced that he would post all inaugural donations on his website, Charliecrist.com.

But Common Cause’s Ben Wilcox says its naïve to believe that corporations didn’t think they would get something out of their largesse to the inaugural (roll tape#4 o.q.�they are�)

On Saturday, the day he decided to reverse course on the gaudy Inaugural, several Florida newspapers condemned his decision to ask for the high end solicitations In an opinion piece in Saturday’s St. Petersburg Times, columnist Steve Bosquet wrote that� Crist's keen sense of what the public wants to hear has failed him. The sheer decadence of the $500,000 number shocks the senses.

During the Gubernatorial campaign, both Tom Gallagher and Jim Davis accused Crist of being wishy-washy on some of the issues. Of trying to please everybody by saying certain things to certain audiences. WMNF asked Central Florida University Professor Aubrey Jewett if this was a case of Crist changing course when it was politically unpopular (roll tape#5 o.q. “in the special session�)

In addition to returning the large contributions already sent for the Inaugeration, Crist said he will use the funds – now capped at $10,000, to defray any expenses for other inaugural activities, but said he doesn’t know how much the total cost will be.

Any excess funds will go to 3 different charity organizations.

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