Criminal investigation needed for Fla GOP?
As a volatile election season gets underway, the Republican Party of Florida is facing its biggest crisis of confidence in decades.
Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising.
Another sign of trouble came Monday with news that incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon transferred $665,000 of party money in the days surrounding Greer's resignation to a separate political committee called the Florida Liberty Fund, suggesting lack of confidence in the party election machine.
Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist's hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide.
"Without any question, the hiding of a contract between the chairman and executive director is absolutely unethical. Is it criminal? It could well be,'' said Brevard County Republican Chairman Jason Steele. "Probably what needs to be done is we just need to expose all of this stuff every bit of it, and let the trees fall wherever they do."
Greer made a show of rescinding the party credit cards of top elected Republican officials and publicly cutting up his American Express card last summer to stem criticism of party spending. But internal records obtained by the Times/Herald show heavy spending continued — on Johnson's card: $100 flower arrangement for the wives of Greer and Gov. Crist; thousands of dollars in meals, $15,000 to charter a jet to George LeMieux's swearing in as U.S. senator, and another $1,800 for in-flight catering services. The spending helped Johnson rack up more than 1 million American Express points.