Carlos Beruff is having a tough week: after Sen. Marco Rubio announced he would in fact run for re-election, the rest of the Republican primary field cleared the way for Rubio. So instead of a crowded primary where he was winning the spending race, Beruff is now facing an incumbent with high name recognition after his presidential campaign, and his former opponents are ganging up on him. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera even accused Beruff of being — gasp! — a Charlie Crist supporter, even after Crist left the Republican Party. Beruff denied the accusation. But what’s the truth?
Here’s the timeline:
May 12, 2009: Crist announces he is not going to run for re-election as Governor, but will instead run to fill Mel Martinez’s Senate Seat.
June 1, 2009: Beruff made two donations of $2,400 each to Charlie Crist for US Senate. That’s the maximum amount that was allowed then for federal races: $2,400 for the primary and $2,400 to be reserved for the general. He had previously bundled $500 donations (the then-maximum donation for state races) and donated to PACs to provide over $20,000 in support for Crist’s previous Florida campaigns.
April 22, 2010: The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Beruff’s local paper, includes him on a list of “some of [Crist’s] biggest GOP donors [who] are vowing to stick with him even if he leaves the party and runs as an independent for the U.S. Senate.”
April 29, 2010: Trailing Rubio badly in the polls, Crist announces he is dropping out of the Republican primary and will continue his campaign as an independent candidate.
May 13, 2010: Crist officially changes his voter registration to non-party affiliated.
June 21, 2010: Crist has a fundraiser at the Siesta Key home of chiropractor Gary Kompothecras. In addition to long time supporters like Kompothecras and Beruff, the guest list includes Democrat elected officials and donors.
In his defense, Beruff told the Tampa Bay Times that he had donated to Crist while he was still a Republican, but claimed that he didn’t give him any support after Crist jumped ship to run as an independent.
However, Beruff’s claim is only true because he couldn’t give Crist any more support — not legally, anyway. As noted above, Beruff had already donated the maximum amount allowed to Crist’s Senate campaign, and federal campaign finance law prohibits corporate donations, so he couldn’t have bundled donations like he had for Crist’s earlier state races.
News reports from that period in 2010 list Beruff as someone who was still willing to support Crist and even attended a fundraiser for Crist after he had left the GOP. Maybe Kompothecras was serving better snacks than the shrimp cocktail and fancy nibbles on crackers that are standard fare at campaign fundraisers, but with the amount of media attention on Crist for leaving the Republican Party, it strains credulity to argue that attending a fundraiser for Crist in June 2010 wasn’t a conscious statement of support.
Moreover, after Crist quit the GOP, many Republican donors who donated to Crist’s campaign — especially many of those who had maxed out their donations like Beruff did — were unhappy and wanted Crist to refund their money. After initially telling reporters he would “probably” refund money for any donors who asked, Crist reversed himself and announced he would keep the money, earning a “Full Flop” rating from PolitiFact Florida. However, I was unable to find any media reports during that time that Beruff was among the donors who asked for a refund.
The bottom line is that while it is entirely possible that Beruff had misgivings about Crist’s Senate campaign as an independent, he kept them to himself for more than five years, until his own name was on the ballot.
In honor of Charlie Crist’s well-documented affection for his portable electric fans, the Capitolist Mythbusters rate his friend Carlos Beruff’s claim he quit supporting him after he left the GOP 4 out of 5 fans. Sorry, Carlos, but we found your excuses just a lot of hot air.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.