Gelber responds to Sink's call for independent RPOF investigation

04/02/10 Kate Bradshaw
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In an investigation spurred by allegations that former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) chair Ed Greer steered money into his own business, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said today that state or federal prosecutors should investigate the Florida Republican Party instead of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Attorney General Bill McCollum, a GOP leader, helps run the FDLE.

South Florida state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat running for attorney general, said he applauds Sink’s move.

The CFO, Alex Sink, was understandably frustrated that there has been almost a circling of the wagons with the leadership in the Republican Party. And she asked for an independent investigation, so that instead of an investigation being run by FDLE, which, although they’re a fine organization, they did report to the Cabinet who, many of whom are implicated, certainly politically, by the fallout … that the investigation occur with an independent state prosecutor, someone like Willie Meggs, Leon County state attorney, or the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is also very able to lead these kinds of investigations.

So I think her idea was a correct one, because you know, there’s really no room for politics in this kind of, there’s really no room for politics in these kinds of investigations. So you shouldn’t have an investigative agency taking the investigation when there’s a group out there like the state attorney or a federal prosecutor that’s available.

Q. Can you please tell our listeners what exactly happened within the Republican Party?

Well, there have been all sorts of allegations that the Republican Party, the leader of the Republican Party, you know, was involved in some misconduct having to do with money that was under his control. There’s allegations of a cover-up, as well, and things like that. So, you know, there’s really a lot of things out there that would give Floridians a lot of pause and concern about the integrity of the folks in charge—and certainly, the folks involved in the Republican Party.

And I’ll say this: I was a federal prosecutor for the better part of a decade, when I did corruption cases. And, you know, there’s no room for politics in criminal investigations; there’s no room at all. There shouldn’t even be the veneer of politics. So I think what Miss Sink was saying is, “Listen; we shouldn’t have the folks investigating this matter who, literally, work for the Cabinet. Because members of the Cabinet, certainly the Republican members of the Cabinet, could lose a lot if this investigation goes poorly. And rather than have that veneer, you know, of politics, this is—give it to a state’s attorney who has no political ax to grind; ask the federal prosecutors to look at it if there are federal statutes that are implicated. But let’s get it out of our employees, which are what FDLE is, who should not be, really, investigating this when there are other more independent folks out here.

Q. What did you think of Governor Crist’s response?

I think it was the right response. Although I don’t know that he mentioned the state attorney, but the truth is, whether it’s a state attorney or a federal prosecutor, they have the measure of independence that I think would provide a lot of comfort to Floridians, knowing that this investigation is being handled where it ought to be handled.

Were you surprised by Bill McCollum’s recent statement indicating that he was, in essence, OK with what Sink had recommended?

You know, I wasn’t surprised, ’cause he tends to not, he tends to be a guy who doesn’t see the problem till they run him over. And I think he’s not—he’s a little tone deaf on this one. Floridians really want investigations into public officials to be done in a nonpartisan way. And when your investigation’s being run by people who work for you, even if they’re doing a great job, there’s an appearance issue that ought to be addressed. And what the CFO did was simply suggest that an independent state attorney, or federal prosecutor who has no ax to grind, no politics, doesn’t have any kind of employee-employer relationship with the investigators, that one of those folks be given the job, and then let the chips fall where they may. And I think the public would be more impressed with the results, because they knew that there was not any politics going on in the investigation.

And I think that makes a lot of sense—and frankly, I was sort of surprised at McCollum’s response. The CFO with her request was simply trying to take politics out of a criminal investigation. There’s been too much circling of the wagons by the Republican Pary, and what she was saying is, “Let an independent prosecutor like a state attorney, or a federal prosecutor, take a look at this matter, rather than the folks that actually work for us.” And that is what, FDLE actually does work for the Cabinet. So it made a lot of sense. And I think the governor did the right thing in agreeing, and I think Mr. McCollum was tone deaf to the issue.

So do you think if the tables had turned, and it had in fact been a Democrat and the Democratic Party in this situation, that Sink would have had the similar stance?

Listen, I was a federal prosecutor. And I prosecuted Democrats and Republicans without the pretense of partisanship. The obligation is the same when it comes to these kind of allegations. I think the CFIO would have said, “Refer it to a state attorney or a federal prosecutor, no matter the partisan stripe involved. It’s something that—that’s how it ought to be done; it’s the right thing to do, and I think she would have done the right thing under any circumstances. I know I would have.

Gov. [Charlie Crist] said he agreed, due to potential IRS implications. A McCollum spokeswoman said the attorney general thinks the FDLE is the appropriate authority, but that McCollum doesn't object to others also investigating.

Sink and McCollum are both running for governor, as a Democrat and a Republican, respectively.

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