TALLAHASSEE (AP) _ House Republican Leader Adam Hasner on Friday attacked a program that restores voting rights to most ex-felons in Florida, but ignored the fact that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist proposed it.
Hasner said the policy to automatically restore some civil rights to most felons should be suspended after learning mistakes were made, and pointed out embattled community organizing group ACORN supports the program. He also cast blame on Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for voting for the policy when it was put in place in 2007.
What Hasner didn't mention the statement he issued is that it was Crist's idea to restore voting and other civil rights to nonviolent felons who had completed their sentences and paid restitution.
The statement came a day after Sink raised concerns about an audit that showed 13 felons had their rights restored even though they shouldn't have. She said at a Clemency Board meeting Thursday that rights should be rescinded in at least three cases because they involved convictions for aggravated or sexual battery.
The board, which is made up of Crist and the three Cabinet members, will review the cases in December. Crist, Sink and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson voted for the automatic restoration of voting rights for most felons. Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum voted against it. Sink and McCollum are candidates for governor in the 2010 election.
The headline on Hasner's press release read “Felons owe thank you to Alex Sink, ACORN.'' Reached later Friday, Hasner said he was only trying to point out that Sink supported the rights restoration policy and is now seeking to rescind rights.
“Anyone who voted in favor of that policy should be held accountable regardless of their political party, and Bill McCollum was wise in voting against it,'' Hasner said. “I singled out Sink because she is attempting to make it appear that she is outraged by the mistakes, and my point is she is being hypocritical because she supported the policy that created the mistakes.''
A Sink spokeswoman responded to Hasner's comments, saying if mistakes were made she wants to fix them.
“CFO Sink believes that the rule of law should be followed, which is why yesterday she brought up the issue of how to reverse the error of giving rights to those who did not qualify for rights restoration. She continues to join with Governor Crist and a majority of the Cabinet in support of a second chance for those who qualify under the established rules and have paid their debt to society,'' said Kyra Jennings.
Another Republican also made an issue of the improperly restored rights, but placed the blame squarely on Crist.
Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is challenging Crist in next year's Republican Senate primary, issued a release that, like Hasner, called for a suspension of the policy and said ACORN supported it.
“Governor Crist sided with ACORN in pushing for the expansion of a felons' rights restoration program in Florida. His flawed, mismanaged program has now erroneously allowed a child rapist and 12 other felons to have their rights restored,'' Rubio said. “Governor Crist was wrong to support this program's expansion and he has failed to oversee its proper implementation.''
Crist's office didn't respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment.