The Republican Party of Florida has been served with a subpoena seeking financial records related to $500,000 in charges on American Express credit cards issued by the party.
The probe is wide-ranging and includes the FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Attorney’s office, The Miami Herald reported. An audit in September showed that more than $500,000 of the funds were used for expenses not related to business.
Although the subpoena was served on Election Day, party officials did not learn about it until the Herald’s story one month later, prompting GOP Chairman John Thrasher to tell fellow Republicans that the target is former, not current, party leaders.
He suggested the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office were interested in former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who faces grand theft charges related to $6 million added to the 2007 state budget for a building at Destin Airport that political friends wanted to use as a hangar. Sansom has pleaded not guilty.
"We understood where the emphasis of the subpoena was going," said Thrasher in the St. Petersburg Times. "We didn't think the subpoena rose to the level of importance considering everything else that has been requested from this same United States Attorney."
The party also is reeling from accusations leveled at ousted GOP leader Jim Greer, who pleaded guilty to defrauding donors and the party by directing donations to a dummy corporation. The Greer and Samson investigations, along with other alleged financial wrongdoings by GOP fundraisers, have federal investigators interviewing lawmakers, donors, and consultants throughout the state.
Thrasher was elected chairman after vowing to bring transparency and open communication to the party, but his failure to immediately inform party leaders about the subpoena angered some.
Tony DiMatteo, Pinellas state committee member, told the Times, "I'm just upset that there's no transparency at the party level after it was promised. . . . It's like The Who song [Won't Get Fooled Again]: 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.' " DiMatteo is seeking to replace Thrasher when he steps down in January.