Crist Appointee Could Come Back to Haunt Governor in His U.S. Senate Bid
The small-town vice mayor appointed by then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist to run the state’s GOP machine was arrested June 2 at his Central Florida home.Former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer’s arrest could prove troublesome to Crist, his one-time benefactor, in spite of the governor’s recent switch to become a political Independent.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents arrested Greer, 47, claiming he absconded with at least $125,000 in state GOP funds that he used for personal expenses. Greer was charged with four counts of grand theft, along with one count of money laundering and one count of running an organized fraud scheme.
Authorities say that Greer set up a company that he then hired to raise funds for the Florida GOP, pocketing 10% of the money collected.
Greer resigned the state chairman- ship in February amid questions concerning the state organization’s inflated credit-card expenses.
Crist had been Greer’s patron, utilizing his carte blanche as the state’s chief executive to elevate him as state party chairman. Crist pushed hard for the former CEO after Greer raised money for Crist’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
Charge statements for GOP-issued American Express cards indicate that during the campaign, Greer usually traveled with Crist, staying at high-end hotels and dining in posh restaurants. On most trips, Greer brought along his own entourage.
The statements detail over $7 million in charges on cards that were held by 30 elected and party officials and their staff during the three years that Greer served as state chairman.
The relationship between Greer and Crist—who is seeking the open Senate seat as an Independent after losing the Republican primary to Rubio—has spilled over into evidence compiled by authorities against the former chairman.
Documents filed in the state’s case show that Crist’s campaign knew that Greer ordered the state party to bill $30,000 to the campaign for polling by Greer’s company,Victory Strategies.This polling had never been ordered by Crist’s campaign, and was never paid, since the party had already paid Greer’s firm.
According to an affidavit filed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state party’s chief financial officer “sought repayment on several occasions from the Crist campaign for the [Victory Strategies] poll.” Crist’s campaign staffers “recall this bill being forwarded to them, but they denied payment for it because they did not know anything about a poll done by the [state party] for the campaign.”
This may mean that the Crist campaign found evidence of Greer’s crimes before law enforcement officials did.
Crist told reporters in Florida that he was startled by events. “It’s surprising,” he said. “Sometimes you’re disappointed by people.”
In South Florida, reaction from LGBT Republicans was muted but hopeful. Nick Stone of Fort Lauderdale, the vice president of the Sunshine Republicans, said there was cautious enthusiasm among his GOP friends about the rooting-out of corruption within their party’s ranks.
“I can tell you that a lot of my Re- publican friends are extremely excited that he’s being investigated,” Stone said.
“For the damage he did to our party, they want him prosecuted—not just gone from the party forever,” he added.