Birds of a feather flock together in the Republican Party
By Roger Caldwell
Former Florida Republican Party chairman, Jim Greer, pleaded guilty last week, averting a long and embarrassing trial for the Florida Republican Party. There is no doubt that a deal has been worked out with the courts where Mr. Greer will do time in prison, but he will get less time because he admitted his guilt.
Last week, I wrote a column on the need for ethics laws, and how Florida is considered one of the most corrupt states in the country. This week, the lead story is, Jim Greer pleads guilty to grand theft and money laundering charges. No one in the Republican Party wanted this trial to go to court because it would expose the truth about how the leaders wasted and spent party funds.
The first allegations about improper spending at the Florida Republican Party started in 2008, then escalated in 2009 when court records were released showing that indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom charged $173,000 on his Republican Party issued credit card. Charged expenses included taking his family on a trip to Europe, making visits to Best Buy and spending thousands on flowers, clothing, meals and hotels.
The precedent had been established by the Republican leadership, and no one should be surprised that Greer pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and a single count of money laundering, because this is the way the party handled its business. If there were a trial some of Florida’s most powerful politicians could be implicated with improper spending.
Topics that were covered in pretrial depositions included allegations of prostitutes at a state Republican fundraiser in the Bahamas, lavish spending on fancy restaurants, and the drinking habits of Crist and other party leaders. In these depositions were information on the most powerful politicians in the state such as Senator Marco Rubio, former US Senator George LeMieux, former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, former Governor Charlie Crist, and several state House and state Senate leaders.
Since Jim Greer has pleaded guilty, the information will be sealed and the dirt will be sweep under the rug, and the Florida politicians know they have dodged a bullet. Everyone in the Tallahassee circle knew that Jim Greer was dirty, but now the question is what will our governor do?
In nature birds of a single species congregate in groups. But I wonder if, in politics, corrupt politicians also congregate in groups to protect each other. Mr. Greer is the fall guy, but improper spending in the party did not stop after he pleaded guilty. There are still Republican leaders not following proper procedures and wasting and stealing money.
Governor Scott has remained quiet, but he will be forced to take a position on Jim Greer and the Republican Party. The media can be allowed to group all the leaders and members of the party as corrupt, or the governor can explain what he is doing to improve the accountability and the procedures with the Republican Party. The governor is the head of the party, and he must bring integrity and transparency back into the state and his party.