The St. Petersburg Times Editorial Board is calling for federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service to conduct a vigorous investigation at the highest level, untainted by state politics. Excerpts:
It is becoming clearer why it took so long to oust former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in January even as the party’s grass roots activists and largest fundraisers demanded a change. Greer had his secrets, and powerful Republican legislators had theirs. Each side was desperate to avoid disclosure, no matter how much damage was done to the state party and how much it cost contributors.
This is not just about state party infighting. Gov. Charlie Crist, who installed Greer as chairman and defended him far too long, has some explaining to do about what he knew and when. So does Attorney General Bill McCollum, who has been active behind the scenes and was too slow to ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.
This is an investigation more appropriately handled by federal authorities. The FDLE reports to the governor and Cabinet, and the Legislature controls its purse strings. Crist is running for the U.S. Senate, and McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink are running for governor. With so much money and so many political futures at stake, only federal prosecutors have the independence to avoid even the perception of a conflict. They need to move quickly, because voters will need some answers before the elections.