Republicans are using a Democratic motif to accuse former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist of perpetuating a "war on women" by accepting campaign donations from companies that operate strip clubs.
Crist, the former Republican governor who is now running as a Democrat in a close race against Gov. Rick Scott (R), is refusing to return some $90,000 in contributions from strip club owners and companies that manage them. The GOP is now using that refusal as fodder for a new television ad, called "Charlie's War on Women."
In a recent interview, the former governor brushed off questions about whether he would return the money, claiming that the funds were from "a management company." The Florida Republican Party is taking issue with Crist's comments, accusing the strip club owners of taking advantage of sex workers and the Crist campaign, by extension, of benefiting.
"Three weeks ago I called on Charlie Crist to return the donations he received from strip club owners who have abused and exploited women, and whose industry promotes sex trafficking, which destroys the lives of thousands of women in Florida," Florida Republican Party Chairman Leslie Dougher said in a statement accompanying the ad's release Monday. "Charlie Crist tried to hide his dirty strip club cash, and only when pushed did he sheepishly admit that he’s refusing to return it. Crist is all talk and no action and his empty rhetoric on women’s issues is insulting but not surprising. If Charlie Crist had any shred of decency left, he would immediately return the dirty strip club cash.”
On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus replied to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's argument that Republican candidates are too extreme on reproductive rights issues by asking if Wasserman Schultz would "call out Charlie Crist" on the strip club contributions matter.
"It's ironic that Rick Scott would complain about where anyone else's money comes from -- he funded his political career with money earned as CEO of a company that overcharged seniors and defrauded taxpayers, ultimately paying one of the largest fines for Medicare fraud in history," Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said.
In a similar line of attack, the Republican Governors Association is highlighting Democrat Paul Davis' presence at a strip club 16 years ago when the venue was raided by law enforcement. Davis was unmarried and wasn't arrested, but Republicans have used a report on the incident to drive a wedge between the Democrat and socially conservative voters in Kansas, where he's challenging Gov. Sam Brownback (R).