Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) to head RNC?

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CNN is reporting that Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) might be new Republican National Committee chair. Can't they pick someone without a connection to Jack Abramoff or a brewing campaign finance scandal?


Martinez is embroiled in a scandal involving PBS&J, a Florida-based contractor that receives lots of government largesse:


A former top executive of giant Miami engineering firm PBS&J was charged Monday in a $36 million embezzlement scheme and in the contribution of $11,000 to the campaign of Florida U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez through "strawmen."


The charges came out of a federal grand jury investigation into the embezzlement and whether PBS&J illegally reimbursed employees for thousands of dollars in political contributions to disguise their source. Ex-Chief Financial Officer W. Scott DeLoach and two former underlings also cited in the investigation, Maria Garcia and Rosario Licata, waived indictment Monday in federal court. Their lawyers said they will plead guilty, possibly by the end of the week.


The charges are a first step in an unfolding scandal at one of South Florida's biggest companies, with almost 4,000 employees. The case also carries national implications because PBS&J does business with and contributes to politicians across the country. Fort Lauderdale attorney Benson Weintraub, one of Garcia's lawyers, said he expects other company officials and possibly the company itself to be indicted as the investigation continues.


''This is just the tip of the iceberg,'' Weintraub said.


Martinez has also been mentioned as connected to the Abramoff scandals, through Bob Ney.


Federal prosecutors said in court documents this week that a Republican congressman allegedly working on behalf of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff targeted Sen. Mel Martinez in his influence efforts.

Martinez was secretary of Housing and Urban Development when Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, chairman of a housing subcommittee, met with Martinez in "early 2003" to "influence decisions and actions" for Abramoff's Native American clients, the court papers said.


Martinez quit the HUD post that December to run for a Senate seat. Ken Lundberg, spokesman for Martinez, said the senator did not recall the meeting that is described vaguely in the court documents or any other meeting with Ney.


And, don't forget the FEC audit.