TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Angering members of his own Republican Party but pleasing some Democrats, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bill yesterday that would have created new pools of campaign contributions controlled by legislative leaders.
Under the bill, the House speaker, Senate president and House and Senate minority leaders could have raised unlimited funds and distributed them to favored candidates.
The so-called Affiliated Party Committees would have created entities very similar to the "leadership funds" that were outlawed more than 20 years ago. A top priority of Republican legislative leaders, the measure was quickly passed by the House and Senate over the objections of Democrats.
In his veto message, Crist called the bill "troubling."
"Twenty-one years ago, the Florida Legislature acted to bring the fundraising activities of its members into the sunshine by eliminating the use of 'leadership funds,' " Crist said. "These accounts allowed legislative leaders to solicit and accept campaign contributions during the legislative session from lobbyists and interest groups outside of the public view."
Republican proponents said it would bring more transparency to the system because all contributions would be listed on the Internet and elsewhere.
Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said he was "deeply disappointed" that Crist vetoed what McKeel called "this common-sense measure."
"We all know that legislative leaders have long raised money for their respective political parties, but the current system is flawed because citizens have no easy way to see how much money has been raised or see which interests gave that money," McKeel said.
Senate Majority Leader Alex de la Portilla, R-Miami, went further, saying Crist "is 100 percent wrong." He also made a thinly veiled reference to the financial scandal enveloping recently resigned Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who had been chosen by Crist.
"As Gov. Crist knows all too well, unchecked power resting solely in a party chairman's office is no way to account for how political party dollars are spent," de la Portilla said.
Crist commended the bill's provisions dealing with disclosure and accountability, but said they didn't outweigh the other elements. "I reject the notion that Affiliated Party Committees or leadership funds will benefit our state," the governor said.
Some Democrats praised the veto. "It was the right thing to do," said state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who is running for state attorney general. "Floridians are tired of the shenanigans that are increasingly defining state government."
The bill also would have revived and repaired a law — ruled unconstitutional last year — that required nonpolitical organizations to register with the state and comply with financial-reporting requirements if they mentioned a candidate or an issue. Crist said he hoped new legislation would address that issue.