Donors: Give Back Our Money, Crist

| Thu May 6, 2010 10:04 AM EDT

A bloc of heavyweight Republican donors is demanding that Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who recently ditched the GOP to run as an independent in his state's US Senate race, return all of their campaign donations for his party betrayal. As of the end of March, Crist had more than $7 million in his campaign war chest, thanks in large part to his deep-pocketed friends in the GOP. The donors' demands came in a letter to Crist that read in part:

"We helped to support, and yes to bankroll, your political career. For years you have been asking us for money. And for years we have put our names and credibility on the line by asking our friends to donate to you. Those days are over."

The donors asking for their money back include the former head of the Florida Republican Party, Al Cardenas. Crist's campaign hasn't responded to the letter yet, the Associated Press reported, and he has no obligation to return any of the money.

Crist switched from the GOP to an independent last week, knowing he had little to no chance beating his Republican rival, Marco Rubio, a Tea Party darling who is the former speaker of Florida's house of representatives. Crist trailed Rubio in the polls by as much as 20 points, but as an independent, the Florida governor looks to have much more of a chance competing with Rubio and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), the presumed Democratic candidate.

The donors' letter is another piece of bad press for Crist, and another example of the GOP's efforts to purge him from the party. Recently, Florida Republicans began auctioning Crist-related memorabilia on eBay, like an autographed business card of Crist's and campaign buttons from his gubernatorial campaign. The party is also trying to sell off a $7,500, scandal-ridden oil portrait of Crist. Given the bad blood between Crist and the GOP—RNC chairman Michael Steele recently said there "will be no Senator Crist"—it's unclear, should Crist win in Florida, with which party he would caucus. With the way Florida's election is shaping up, that victory looks far from likely.

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