A Circuit Judge in Naples last week denied class action certification for Republican donors to recoup about $7.5 million in campaign contributions collected by Charlie Crist before the Senate candidate dropped his party affiliation in April. But one of the parties in the suit is now pledging to appeal that ruling.
The original decision came after state Rep. Thomas Grady, R-Naples, filed suit on behalf of two donors who felt betrayed by Crist’s decision to run as an independent candidate after accepting donations under the GOP banner. Now the more than 2,000 contributors to Crist’s campaign will need to pursue individual lawsuits in order to recoup their donations.
The Associated Press reports:
State Rep. Thomas Grady said he disagreed with the judge’s decision but was unsure if he would appeal. Grady said it might be better to let contributors sue the Crist campaign across the state, but it’s unclear how many people would take that route.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Grady said. “They may just go from the frying pan into the fire.”
Grady had argued that Crist broke a contract with Republican donors when he declared for the GOP nomination, repeatedly insisted he would never leave the party as Rubio surged in the polls, then did exactly that in April by becoming an independent. The Collier County lawsuit was filed by former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas John Rood, who gave $4,800, and Linda Morton of Naples, who contributed $500.
“He was running as a Republican, and now he’s not, but he’s keeping the money,” Grady said. “Crist should return the money.”
Today Grady announced he will file an emergency appeal in an attempt to block Crist from spending any additional donated money. “The appeals court has independent power to enjoin the Crist Campaign and protect all parties by preserving the status quo, and will be asked to do so because the circuit court did not,” Grady wrote in an email to The News-Press.
Crist’s attorney claims that many of his initial contributors still support him as an independent candidate, submitting affidavits into the record from donors who want no part of such a lawsuit, and noted that identifying those who gave money on the condition of his party affiliation would be impossible.