Wow. Talk about bad timing.
While the Republican Party of Florida financial scandal unravels into a web of lawsuits and criminal investigations, the clock is ticking on a major fundraising and campaign finance bill that now sits on the desk of Gov. Charlie Crist.
Crist has until next Tuesday to veto, sign or let HB 1207 become law without his signature.
The bill has two main components: One part would re-regulate 527 organizations in Florida, also known as electioneering communication organizations. Florida's previous law that required these groups to register and report their financial information was struck down last year by a federal judge. While there have been some quibbles about the wording of this part of the bill - and whether or not it still goes too far to withstand judicial scrutiny - no one has come out in opposition.
It's the other part of the legislation that has drawn fire from Democrats and others.
The legislation would create leadership funds, or "affiliated party committees." These would essentially allow the Senate President, House Speaker and minority party leaders set up accounts that would take unlimited campaign donations and then give the legislative leaders the power to control spending out of these accounts. The argument is that this will allow the public to see which donors are giving money because of requests from legislative leaders instead of co-mingling it in party accounts with other donations.
So then ask yourself. What advantage or disadvantage would Crist get out of signing this bill right now? How would it look and how would it impact his campaign for U.S. Senate?
Republican legislative leaders want it obviously. But it's not like they have been extremely friendly to Crist's legislative agenda this session.
Meanwhile pressure is starting to mount as some people start calling on Crist to veto the bill. State Sen. Dan Gelbercontended that the bill would create "cash register politics" in Florida and Gelber went so far as to assert that staff that run these new funds could solicit money during the session. (Legislative rules bar legislators from soliciting money.)
Now throw in the whole mess with Greer. Crist handpicked Greer for the job as party chairman, but now there is a situation where two incoming legislative leaders - the ones who would get to set up the accounts - now stand accused of supporting a secret severance package with Greer and even offering him "hush money." Party officials say the agreement was never executed and legislative leaders say the hush money allegation is false.
Crist's candidacy has been asserting lately that voters can't trust Rubio - because of the way he handled his own fundraising activities and his credit card expenses. (Yes, Rubio has denied that he did anything wrong, although there is a portion of his expenses that have yet to be totally explained.)
Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland and the sponsor of the bill, argues that if anything the Greer situation is exactly why more "transparency" is needed.
"I would think the governor would approve having more transparency and accountability,'' said McKeel on Thursday.
But McKeel also acknowledged that he has not talked to anyone in the governor's office nor does he have any idea what Crist plans to do.
Crist could veto the bill and lawmakers could always hand Crist his first ever veto override as governor. That is a bit far-fetched but it certainly would generate some headlines.