Success pays off for aides to Crist

Bonuses to six for campaign work range up to $150,000 for the governor's staff chief.

Published January 17, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Working on a statewide political campaign is a grueling job. But if you win, it pays very, very well.

Gov. Charlie Crist doled out hefty bonuses to a half-dozen top aides for their efforts during his recent successful campaign.

"They earned it," Crist said Tuesday. "I'm grateful to them, and I thought it was appropriate."

The money came from the Republican Party of Florida, which helped to finance Crist's campaign and took in a record $40-million in the two months preceding Election Day.

The biggest bonus recipient, by far, was chief of staff George LeMieux, who received $150,000 in addition to an earlier $50,000 bonus after Crist won the Republican nomination.

LeMieux's bonuses exceeded his salary as campaign chief of staff, which equated to $162,000 a year. They also are more than the $147,000 LeMieux will earn this year as chief of staff in the governor's office.

All of the bonus recipients now work full time in the governor's office, and all played key roles in the nine-week transition period between the election and Crist's Jan. 2 inauguration.

Arlene DiBenigno, the campaign's political director, received a $75,000 bonus.

Campaign communications director Vivian Myrtetus received a $50,000 bonus in addition to a $24,000 bonus after the primary.

Campaign operations manager Jim Rimes received $46,000 in bonuses. Policy director Chanta Combs and press secretary Erin Isaac received bonuses of $25,000 each, according to the GOP's latest financial report.

Crist defended the bonuses as "a lot less than other states."

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer handed out bonuses totaling $1.3-million to 49 campaign workers, including individual checks of $200,000, $150,000 and $100,000.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@stimes.com or 850 224-7263.