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Carole Crist now on Rep. Charlie Crist's campaign payroll

Carole and Charlie Crist campaign along 54th Ave. South and 31st. South in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. (SCOTT KEELER   |   Times)

Carole and Charlie Crist campaign along 54th Ave. South and 31st. South in St. Petersburg on Nov. 8. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)

Carole Crist has been a key political adviser to Charlie Crist since their marriage in 2008 when he was still a Republican star nationally and Florida's governor.

Now that Crist is a newly elected Democratic congressman representing south Pinellas County, Mrs. Crist's role is becoming more official: She is on his campaign payroll.

Campaign reports show the wealthy former New Yorker received two payroll payments in December totalling $6,500, and another $417 payment.

"She's a great woman, my best friend, smart, loyal and driven and plays an integral part in this campaign," said Rep. Crist, describing his wife as the "campaign director" who also plays a big role in raising money.

Anti-nepotism rules bar members of the U.S. House from hiring family members for official staff positions, but nothing prevents them from using political committees to hire relatives.

In 2013, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found at least 75 members of Congress paying family members to work on their campaigns, and WTSP-Ch. 10 reported those in the Tampa Bay area included Republican U.S. Reps. Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota.

Mrs. Crist, 47, a millionaire who used to help run her family's New York-based wholesale costume business, has been closely involved in running her husband's campaigns for Senate, governor and Congress since 2010 but on an unpaid basis.

Crist unseated Republican Rep. David Jolly in November, 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent. Jolly has signalled he is seriously considering running again.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Carole Crist now on Rep. Charlie Crist's campaign payroll 02/01/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 8:07pm]
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