Florida Democrats Try to Connect Crist and Republicans to Greer Arrest
Today’s news that former Florida GOP chair Jim Greer was under arrest provided state Democrats with new glue in their ongoing effort to stick his spending misuse allegations to leading Republican candidates and independent Senate hopeful Charlie Crist.
Greer faces six charges — four counts of felony grand theft and one each of organized scheme to defraud and money laundering — in connection with an investigation into allegations he had created a fake company to siphon off party revenue. Greer, who became party chair in 2007, resigned under duress in early January following unrelated reports of lavish spending and poor fundraising.
Following Greer’s resignation, party officials learned about his creation of Victory Strategies LLC. The company had a secret contract with the party under which it would help the party with fundraising and would keep 10 percent of every major gift. State Prosecutor William Shepherd accused Greer, who owned 60 percent of Victory Strategies, of stealing and laundering that money. He kept $125,161.50 of it for himself.
Damon Chase, Greer’s attorney, told reporters Wednesday that Greer had done nothing illegal. If convicted, he could face more than 75 years in prison.
The Florida Democratic Party quickly pounced on the news, with party chair Karen Thurman issuing a press statement in which she excoriated Crist and others for their connections to Greer.
While Greer was Gov. Charlie Crist’s handpicked Republican Chairman, Bill McCollum was Jim Greer’s handpicked gubernatorial candidate. A fact Bill McCollum was happy to tout at the time, but now is trying to conveniently forget.
Now with disgraced Republican Speaker Ray Sansom under indictment, Former Republican Party Chair Jim Greer under arrest, and most of the Republican leadership in Florida, including Crist and Speaker Marco Rubio, under criminal investigation, Floridians are forced to watch the car wreck that has become the Republican Party of Florida and wonder which GOP party boss or elected official will be taken off in handcuffs next.
Crist may be particularly susceptible to criticism of his Greer ties — he was the one who appointed Greer as GOP head. He also vehemently defended Greer as other party leaders attempted to force him out.
During a press conference today on the Gulf Coast oil spill, Crist said he was “disappointed” by Greer’s arrest but that he did not “feel complicit” in what happened. He also said he did not believe news of the arrest would affect his Senate bid.
“As I said earlier, it’s disappointing, it’s surprising,” he said. “Sometimes you’re disappointed by people.”
State Sen. John Thrasher, who succeeded Greer as party chair, told reporters he feels Crist should take some of the blame for the scandal.
“I don’t think you can walk away from the fact that this guy was at one time your best buddy in politics, that you relied on day-in and day-out, and now say that because he’s been indicted ‘I never had anything to do with it,’” he said. “I don’t think you can walk away from it.”
Thrasher’s comments are the latest round in a battle royale that has raged since Crist announced he would opt out of a contentious primary race against Rubio in favor of an independent bid for the state’s open Senate seat.