This Week in Politicians Taking Free Stuff: Frank Carollo's Trip to Spain, Kathy Rundle's $20K in Flowers and Tickets

Ever since Miami Beach officials were caught trying to strong-arm tickets from the New World Symphony, public patience has worn thin for politicos taking comped gifts. Last week, via crusading blogger Al Crespo we brought you the tale of Tomas Regalado's gratis box seats at Heat games (and his photos with Hugo Chavez pal Sean Penn.)

This week, Crespo does more gift-report digging and finds Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo took a mysterious free trip to Spain, and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle reported just over $20,000 in gifts over the last three years.

Carollo's disclosures show that last June, the Little Havana politico accepted a free flight on Air Europa to Madrid (worth $1,015) and a hotel room at the swank Gran Melia Fenix hotel, which has a lovely, cathedral-like lobby and would have set him back $625 were it not comped.

Who exactly paid for the free Spanish vacay? It's not entirely clear.

Carollo, in his disclosures, says Air Europa and the hotel paid for the flight and the room. As Crespo points out, two months before the trip Carollo attended an "Air Europa Day" event where company reps got a key to the city.

The commish didn't respond to two letters from the blogger, and he hasn't responded to a message Riptide left at his office.

Rundle, meanwhile, reports receiving $20,232.46 in swag since 2008. Her disclosure -- which you can read in full here -- includes everything from a half dozen batches of flowers to $600 in food from Versailles to a $250 necklace.

The biggest items, however, are all tickets to events, including $975 passes to a Super Bowl luncheon and $375 tix to the South Beach Food and Wine Festival's Bubble Q tent.

Just because she reported the tickets doesn't mean that Rundle was partying it up at the events, though, says Ed Griffith, a spokesman for her office. Most events listed on the disclosure are charity affairs Rundle attended to support the effort, he says.

"Usually, she'll go at the request of the charity or the fundraiser," Griffith says. "She still has to report that she didn't pay to attend the event, though."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink