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CREW Calls Three Florida Senate Candidates ‘Crooked’

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington apparently thinks the race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat is corrupt all around. Yesterday it listed the three top candidates in the race — Gov. Charlie Crist (I), Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) — among its 11 “Crooked Candidates” of the 2010 campaign.

CREW claims its study is based on research of “news articles, blogs and public records to find those candidates who have engaged in criminal or unethical conduct.” Though the list is not complete — CREW is now asking readers to submit additional nominees — the Florida Senate race is the only one at present to have more than one candidate listed. Other candidates to make the list include infamous South Carolina Senate candidate Alvin Greene (D), Washington Senate candidate Dino Rossi (R) and Missouri Senate candidate Roy Blunt (R).

Crist, Meek and Rubio have all certainly had their share of controversy over the course of this campaign.

Crist and Rubio in particular have been tainted by scandals involving the state Republican Party. Crist has taken hits for his ties to former state party chair Jim Greer, who was arrested June 2 on charges he set up a shell company to shave off party revenue for his personal use. Rubio’s campaign built an ad around the Greer connection, though Rubio has had his share of party scandals too. He is implicated in an FBI-IRS-U.S. attorney investigation into officials’ misuse of party-issued American Express cards and is accused of using earmarks for financial gain, among other alleged misdeeds CREW cited.

Meanwhile, Meek has taken hits for monetary ties his mother and a former chief of staff have to Dennis Stackhouse, a South Florida developer who’s been charged with fraud. Meek apparently steered federal funding to the very development project Stackhouse’s fraud charges stem from.

The only other major candidate in the race, billionaire Jeff Greene (D), may also be facing an ethics issue now. The Associated Press reported today that Greene paid $4,000 to Jon Ausman, a Floridian member of the Democratic National Committee, for “political consultation and strategy” a day after Ausman sent out an e-mail asking people to take a survey that would help him decide whether to endorse Meek or Greene for the Democratic Senate nomination. Six days after that, Ausman endorsed Greene.

The two most recent polls of the race — from Public Policy Polling and Ipsos/Reuters — show Crist leading, with Rubio a close second and either Democrat trailing well behind.

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