The team behind Republican Senate hopeful Connie Mack on Monday continued to drill primary rival for his ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist -- and demanded the U.S. Department of Justice launch a criminal investigation that LeMieux used improper influence to get Crist to appoint him to the Senate.
LeMieux and Mack are both angling for the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.
After attacking LeMieux over the weekend after media reports looked at Crist appointing LeMieux for a 16-month term in the Senate, the Mack team followed up on Monday with a request to the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation.
Craig Engle, Mack’s legal counsel, sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Monday regarding “allegations about former United States Senator George LeMieux’s alleged conduct in seeking and ultimately securing an appointment to the United States Senate from then-Florida Governor Charlie Crist in 2009.”
Citing comments in an article in the Tampa Tribune from former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer -- who has faced accusations about financial misconduct of party funds -- and former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, that Crist intended to appoint Kottkamp to the Senate seat, Engle called for an investigation, insisting that LeMieux pressured the then-governor to appoint him to the Senate. LeMieux had been allied with Crist including serving as his chief of staff.
“In addition to the Tampa Bay Tribune article, there are allegations that George LeMieux may have threatened to disclose harmful information about Governor Crist, and that LeMieux may have promised to support Governor Crist’s potential candidacy for the same U.S. Senate seat in exchange for his appointment,” Engle wrote on Monday. “If true, these allegations raise serious questions about whether George LeMieux and Charlie Crist violated federal and Florida anti-corruption laws by allegedly securing and making an appointment to the United States Senate possibly through extortion or bribery, and because of the nature of the underlying allegations, questions also arise as to whether there is an ongoing conspiracy between George LeMieux and Charlie Crist.”
Engle called for a “prompt and thorough investigation by law enforcement officials” regarding what “George LeMieux and Charlie Crist may or may not have done in this matter and I urge the Justice Department to pursue the truth without delay.”
The LeMieux camp fired back on Monday afternoon. In a statement emailed to Sunshine State News, Anna Nix insisted that Mack was looking to discredit his Republican rival.
“Running the worst campaign in America and under investigation for wrongfully claiming homestead exemption, Connie Mack the Fourth is now making outrageous allegations concerning George LeMieux’s appointment to the United States Senate,” Nix said in the statement. “These allegations are ridiculous and categorically false. George put no pressure on the governor for the appointment and was honored to be interviewed and selected for the position. Nothing was asked of George and no promises were made, other than to serve the people well. The source of Mack’s allegations is the discredited former chairman of the state Republican Party who is facing criminal trial in the coming weeks. That source should be considered, as well as Mack’s motives.”
Mack has picked support in recent days from prominent Republicans -- namely presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and freshman U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla. -- but this did not keep former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon from jumping in the Republican primary on Friday. Retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister, who pulled more than 10 percent in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, is also running in the primary.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.