Sansom resigns, Florida GOP breathes collective sigh of relief

Sansom was Rubio's handpicked budget chief while Rubio served as the House speaker in 2007-2008. The Destin Republican then maximized his  leverage to move more than $35 million in public funds to little Northwest Florida State College.  That's the school that he took a job at on the same day in November 2008 that he was sworn in as House Speaker.

When asked about the controversy last year, Rubio blew it off, telling the Times last year that

"Ray Sansom is a high quality person. He's one of the best people I ever interacted with in the legislative process. ... He's in the middle of a process, and he'll have to let the process go through.  He understands he's got a perception problem. ... It comes down to his ability to his ability to focus on the job, and if he can focus on the job then I don't think it's a problem."

But it became a major problem.

In January of '09, Hillsborough Party Democratic activist Susan Smith filed an ethics complaint against Sansom.  CL spoke this morning from Tallahassee, where she learned on Friday that she too, had been deposed to testify in the case.  She said that Sansom's resignation shows that there can be some accountability for transgressions by elected officials, but said it happened in a "pretty roundabout way."

She also speculated that inside the state Republican Party, supporters of Rubio were probably happy to hear such news, while those in Governor Crist's camp perhaps not so much.

"I just don't know where it ends," she said, alluding to the controversy involving state party officials use of money and credit cards.  "I also still think there's questions about the budget process."

The Sansom resignation comes a day after the Florida Republican Party chose State Senator and former lobbyist John Thrasher to become their new state party chair, replacing Jim Greer.   Thrasher announced after being named the victor that he wanted to bring in a forensic accountant to investigate the party's finances.

Democrats have pounced on the story, particularly after Republicans themselves expressed outrage upon learning about the salary and expenses of now former state party executive chairman Delmar Johnson.

Ray Sansom's resignation from the Florida House of Representatives Sunday night is in the words of Bradenton House Republican Bill Galvano "a resolution that's in the best interest of everyone involved."

No kidding.

The departure of the embattled Panhandled based former House Speaker means that the  House Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (which Galvano chairs) will not spend most of this week hearing testimony about a $6 million airport hangar project that Sansom, as appropriations chairman, quietly inserted into the state budget.

That also means that officials with knowledge of how the budgeting process works  - none bigger than U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio - who were scheduled to have to testify at the public hearing now will not, which saves the now rock star Rubio any embarrassment that might have evolved out of a hearing process that he did not control.


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