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Hotline: How much will move cost Charlie Crist?

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From Hotline: FL Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is contemplating his political future this week as he decides whether to run for Sen. George LeMieux‘s (R) seat as an independent. But he also should be contemplating just how much it’s going to cost him.

Crist has benefitted from several strong fundraising quarters, but conservative bloggers and activists have vowed to make a potential independent bid hurt his bank account. And he should take note: Those same activists helped cost Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) more than $1M after his own defection last year.

When Specter bolted, he told donors they could have their money back if they wanted. And the conservative Club for Growth took him up on the offer. The Club received permission from the FEC to help donors contact the campaign and ask for donations to be returned.

A review of FEC reports filed over the last year shows Specter gave $224K back during the second quarter, when he made his party switch, and $602K back during the fourth quarter, when the Club mailed his donors informing them of the policy. All told, Specter has returned $1.031M so far this election cycle.

On Tuesday, the Club said it would pursue the same program if Crist were to leave the GOP. “If and when Charlie Crist leaves the Republican Party, we will contact his contributors and help them make formal refund requests to his campaign,” Club President Chris Chocola said in a statement.

It’s impossible to tell just how many individual donations Crist would lose if he pulls the switch, but he’s certain to receive requests from DC GOPers, who wrote checks from their PACs. So far, the NRSC, NRSC chair John Cornyn, Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell and a host of others have contributed, either directly or through their PACs, a total of $87K; Crist would almost certainly return those funds. Continue reading here.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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