FL GOP’s Latest Spending Scandal: Junior Staffer Allegedly Racked Up $1.3M On Party Credit Card

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The Florida GOP has a spending problem.

In the latest installment, a junior Florida Republican Party staffer racked up nearly $1.3 million in charges on a party American Express card over two and a half years, according to records obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald.That’s just the latest in a series of recent revelations about problematic Florida GOP spending. Donor funds have, again and again in recent years, apparently been used for lavish personal spending.

Now, according to the Times, Melanie Phister, who served as finance director for state House campaigns for 2½ years starting in mid 2006, racked up nearly $1.3 million on her party AmEx card, including $40,000 at a London hotel, $15,000 for a month-long stay at a posh Miami hotel, thousands on jewelry and sporting goods, and nearly $20,000 in plane tickets for ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom (who’s facing separate criminal charges of perjury and official misconduct and has a spending scandal of his own to deal with).

The state GOP sends over this statement from Phister (who did not immediately return TPM’s call seeking comment):

In my capacity as finance director for House Campaigns during the 2008 election cycle, I was issued an RPOF corporate credit card. Charges on the card were incurred in relation to the duties of raising money for the Party, and as directed by Rep. Sansom in his role as the Speaker-Designate. I did not have the sole discretion to initiate credit card spending. Over that period of time, there were multiple instances when the card was used to make purchases that I had no knowledge of, and I did not regularly review the monthly credit card statements which I understand were sent directly to the Party’s accounting office.

The party itself also maintains that Phister’s spending was “incurred in relation to her duties as finance director for house campaigns during the 2008 election cycle, and as directed by Rep. Sansom in his role as Speaker Designate.”

Katherine Gordon Betta, the state party’s communications director, said Florida Republicans have hired Alston + Bird LLP “to conduct an independent forensic investigation of the Party’s finances.”

As part of this investigation, members of the firm’s Special Matters and Investigations staff will review questionable credit card expenses to determine whether or not the Party may have been the victim of any improper financial dealings. If the audit reveals any inappropriate expenses that have not been reimbursed to the Party, we will seek to collect compensation from the individuals who incurred the expense, or directed that an expense be incurred on their behalf.

More on the Florida GOP’s problem spending here.

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