Secret Contract Causes Uproar Among Florida Republicans

Sen. Paula Dockery
Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland is one of several Republicans questioning the contract and spending of the Florida Republican Party.
TAMPA (2010-2-9) -

Republican activists and donors are reacting angrily to revelations that Florida GOP Executive Director Delmar Johnson, padded his $103,000 salary with an additional $300,000 from fundraising contracts and expenses.

Johnson set up a secret company to collect 10 percent of all large donations he garnered for the party, according to documents first leaked to the Orlando Sentinel. GOP Chairman Jim Greer signed off on that agreement.

The Orlando Sentinel also reported lavish spending by Johnson charged to the party.

This comes after the state party had to lay off employees due to low fundraising totals. Last week, the Florida Republican Party reported debts of nearly $500,000.

Under fire for his leadership of the party, Greer has already announced he's stepping down, with an election to replace him later this month. Greer declined to talk about the matter.

Republican Gov. Charlie Crist says it would be ``a good idea'' for the state GOP to release records of credit cards used by party leaders.

But Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican who wants to succeed Crist as governor, Tuesday said it’s the party’s business, not the public’s business.

Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland said the party can't ask people to contribute money, and then refuse to let them see how it's spent.

"To have a secret arrangement that nobody else knew about is incredibly unethical, in my opinion," Dockery said.

"The contract bothers me, the secrecy bothers me, the wasteful spending bothers me, and the rumors about how money was spent and who had credit cards bothers me," she added. Dockery also is running for governor.

Al Hoffman, a former Republican National Committee finance chair, told the Orlando Sentinel that what Johnson did was clearly wrong.

"Obviously, that is absolutely unconscionable compensation, and it was done in a way to obfuscate or hide the intent," Hoffman said. "I don't think in history any party chairman would have allowed their executive director to earn that kind of stash."

Broward County's GOP chair Chip LaMarca defended Johnson, but said the party leadership needs to be given more information.

“I know Delmar to be one of the hardest working people in the party. That being said, that’s a huge amount of money, and we’d like to have an idea of what’s going on,” LaMarca said.

University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus says this is dragging the party down at a time when it should be doing better.

"It’s not what you want to have on the front page of every newspaper and on every radio and television station. It’s particularly difficult at a time when Republicans and others are talking about transparency, it’s not happening within their own house," she said.

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