I got to thinking this morning about an email response Katie Gordon, the spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida, sent me in response to a question I had about Marco Rubio’s credit card spending. Rubio has claimed that the card was “his” — and was issued on his credit, under his name, with the implication being that the card may have been issued under the auspices of the party, which would trigger restrictions on how the card could be used (election purposes only) it was really more like a corporate card, which he was free to use and then pay the bills directly to American Express.
Only that didn’t happen. Here’s what Ms. Gordon told me on March 1st:
Speaker Rubio received the statements directly for a period of time, and then under Chairman Greer’s administration the Party received the statements directly.
Again: the change in how Mr. Rubio’s ” AMEX bills were handled happened under Jim Greer’s administration, which began not long after Rubio became speaker of the House in 2006. So contrary to Rubio’s statements that “I made payments out of my own pockets directly to American Express,” the party says it was receiving the bill. And clearly, Rubio believes Jim Greer was receiving, or at least had access to those statements, because it was Rubio who accused Greer of leaking them to the press. Rubio, according to the Herald/SPTimes investigation, went as long as six months without making a bill payment (and yet the card wasn’t cancelled, which means somebody was presumably paying the bills…) frequently used the card for routine private expenditures (plus a not-so-routine $130 haircut) and in the end, repaid the party in a lump sum for about $16,000 of the $109,618 he spent. But he didn’t pay the party back for everything. As you’ll recall, the party picked up the tab for a purchase at the Apple computer store, and for the repair of the Rubio family minivan, among other things, and the party also sprang for a luxury trip to Georgia for Rubio, his top aide Richard Corcoran, and his “12 disciples” to attend the Rubio family reunion. The party’s donors (and all Florida taxpayers including Democrats, since Rubio had a tendency to double bill) picked up the tab to fly Rubio to work in Tallahasse, and to fly his wife, the so-called “first lady of the Florida House” around the state. As one Republican put it not long ago, this was part of the “culture of entitlement” Rubio and his friends created at the time.
And all of this was signed off on by Jim Greer.
We’ve since learned that not only did Greer sign off on Rubio’s money party, he also had the party pay the bills for $200,000 in spending largesse for incoming speaker Dean Cannon, and on his way out the door, Greer apparently also took with him the proverbial goods on other former RPOF credit card dependents, to include Rubio, Cannon, Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos and party Chairman John Thrasher, all of whom will star in Greer’s upcoming lawsuit, along with Attorney General Bill McCollum. These men all appear to have colluded to push Greer out of office, and to put Thrasher, a Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio ally, in place. But these men, with the exception of McCollum, also had something else in common: all of them had Republican Party of Florida American Express cards. (For his part, McCollum, hand picked by Greer to run for governor, dragged his feet through molasses to avoid investigating any of it, and opposed the release of party credit card statements.) Every one of the House and Senate leaders presumably used those cards (which is why none of them wants to release the records,) and had their expenses — exorbitant though they may have been — signed off on by Jim Greer. (Cannon also gets the prize for best actor, for pretending to be so shocked! … by Greer era spending that he yanked $655,000 he had raised for the party out of the RPOF bank account and into his own “Liberty fund,” where presumably he could continue to wine and dine and live it up with greater privacy.)
And when it came time for Mr. Greer to stand for re-election as party chairman, all of these men: Rubio, Cannon, Haridopolos, McCollum, plus members of Rubio’s “12 disciples” — supported him, effectively affirming putting their sugar daddy back in office. And when it was clear that the pro-Rubio party base wanted Greer to go, it appears that most of these men got together and agreed, at least for a time, to keep him on the payroll to the tune of $124,000. And when it appeared that he wasn’t going to go as quietly as they might have liked, Greer says they also tried to buy him off. And he’s got both documents, and discovery, not to mention time, on his side.
The symbiotic relationship that Greer had with these lawmakers should be investigated along with everything else. Some questions I’d like to see answered:
1. What did Cannon, Thrasher and Haridopolos know about Greer’s secret Delmar Johnson deal, and when did they know it?
2. If they did discover the secret deal, what if anything did they do about it?
3. Did the fact that Greer was signing off on these men’s spending during his tenure, and on the spending of party darling Marco Rubio, influence the decision to pay Greer off (in severance, and in “hush money” if that’s proven?
4. Did Mr. Greer engage in an active cover-up of wrongful use of party funds by elected officials including Rubio and Cannon, and in exchange, did Florida Republican Party leaders essentially look the other way while he made a little money on the side with Delmar Johnson?
5. How many other members of the Greer re-election committee had credit cards with bills that were sent directly to the party, and what’s on those bills?
6. Did any of these men report the extra spending largesse as income on their 2006 -2009 taxes?
It would also be useful to know what, if anything, Charlie Crist knew about Greer’s side activities, and when, since he did name Greer to the post. But Crist didn’t have a party credit card, and it wasn’t the governor whose American Express bills were being sent directly to the RPOF for Greer’s signature. (McCollum apparently didn’t have a party credit card either, but he has been awfully quiet about all this …)
It’s safe to conclude, is it not, that Jim Greer essentially held a whip hand over the House and Senate Republican leaders. Surely he must have known that their personal spending violated the rules governing the use of political donations, but he signed off anyway. And he clearly felt free to do his own dirt, knowing he had equally nasty dirt on them. In any other state, this might be considered a criminal conspiracy. But in Florida, our attorney general is Bill McCollum.
And they say Illinois politics is dirty.
I for one can’t wait for Jim Greer’s lawsuit, and I can’t wait for the feds to get down here and do more than just take down small time commissioners and school board members. It’s time for some of Florida’s big fish to get fried.