TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – As he debated Democratic challenger Charlie Crist this week, Gov. Rick Scott more or less blamed Attorney General Pam Bondi when confronted about delaying an execution that conflicted with a Bondi fundraiser.
"She asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on," said Scott, the Republican incumbent.
Crist, a former Republican governor now running as a Democrat, brought up the issue to argue that Scott hasn't taken seriously the duty to sign death warrants. And Crist continued to press for Scott to say whether he knew about Bondi's fundraiser, prompting a testy exchange between the two.
"She apologized," Scott said. "She apologized. What would you like her to do?"
"I'm not asking about her," Crist said, interrupting Scott. "Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?"
The argument dates back to an execution last year. Bondi admitted she asked Scott to reschedule an execution that had been planned for the night of her waterfront "campaign kickoff" fundraiser.
After the reason for the delay became public, Bondi said that her request to move the execution of convicted murder Marshall Lee Gore from Sept. 10 to Oct. 1 was a "mistake" that "won't happen again." Gore was put to death on the later date.
Scott has said he was simply complying with a request from a state Cabinet member when he rescheduled the execution and didn't know the reason for the delay.
But Democrats pounced on Scott's performance during the debate, including the fact that he didn't specifically say Tuesday night that he didn't know about the fundraiser.
The campaign of George Sheldon, the Democrat running against Bondi, sent out a fundraising pitch including the delayed execution and other issues where Bondi and Scott agree.
"I don't know if you're also watching the Scott/Crist debate, but it's amazing how Scott, like Bondi, defends the indefensible," said the email, signed by Kartik Krishnaiyer, Sheldon's deputy campaign manager.
A spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party sent an email to reporters dubbing the exchange "without a doubt one of the most important moments" of the debate.
"In a classic gaffe --- telling the truth, for once --- Rick Scott openly admitted to rescheduling an execution to accommodate Pam Bondi?s fundraising schedule," Joshua Karp wrote.
A YouTube clip of the back-and-forth has been viewed tens of thousands of times since the night of the debate. Meanwhile, the Crist campaign emailed an old Associated Press account of how Crist solemnly paid attention to an execution carried out during his time as governor.
It isn't clear how much damage the exchange will do to Scott or Bondi --- if it damages them at all. It generally takes a few days for the impact of events to show up in polling, and Sheldon is a long-shot to knock off Bondi, given her fundraising edge and advantage in name recognition. But if nothing else, the discussion serves as a headache that both Republican campaigns would rather avoid.
When the Legislature approved changes last year to the campaign-finance system, it required candidates and political committees to more frequently report where they get money and how they spend it. The reason, or so the thinking went, was to provide more transparency.
But don't tell that to anyone trying to track the tens of millions of dollars flowing through the state Republican and Democratic parties. The 2013 law did not place similar stepped-up reporting requirements on the parties, which have only filed three campaign-finance reports this year --- with the fourth due Oct. 31, four days before the election.
The issue came into full view this week when Scott said he would write a check to the Republican Party of Florida to help fund a final push in his campaign. Scott did not say how much he will contribute, and voters --- not to mention Scott's Democratic foes --- likely won't find out until the GOP files its finance report Oct. 31.
But the Scott contribution is only the most-visible manifestation of not requiring the parties to disclose information more frequently. The more-lax reporting requirements also apply to entities known as "affiliated party committees,'' headed by legislative leaders such as incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
The Crisafulli committee, the House Republican Campaign Committee, last filed a report in August. At that point, it had raised nearly $2.65 million and spent about $547,000.
In recent weeks, the committee has poured large chunks of money into the campaigns of Republican House candidates, as shown in reports that the individual candidates have been required to file. For example, the committee this month gave $40,000 to the campaign of Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami; $30,000 to the campaign of Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville; and $24,000 to the campaign of Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona.
BONDI GETS HUMANE SOCIETY BACKING
Bondi has for the past couple of years provided some lighthearted moments at the start of Cabinet meetings by carrying around locally rescued canines --- regardless of size --- to promote dog adoptions.
This week, her efforts made her the only statewide candidate to be rewarded with an endorsement by the Humane Society.
Bondi has been able to quickly find homes for all but one of the furry critters that have visited the Cabinet --- a greyhound with a broken leg.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Rick Scott goes after Charlie Crist for having money. In other news, King Kong goes after Curious George for being too monkey." --- Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell (@Scott_Maxwell)
This report is by Brandon Larrabee, Jim Saunders and Jim Turner with The News Service Of Florida
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