The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Democrats: Crist allows corruption

11

December

UPDATE 1 p.m.: Republicans fire the next salvo. "Barack Obama has pledged to set up a bipartisan administration and revive the economy. We take him at his word. Florida Democrat Chairman Karen Thurman, however, refuses to follow the lead of President-Elect Obama, continuing to hurl hyper-partisan attacks across the aisle instead of working for change." See full statement in the jump.

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A scorcher memo from Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff:

"Everyone who has followed Florida politics for any length of time knows that Charlie Crist has had his own ethic problems involving questionable fundraising and travel, but recently Florida has seen numerous examples of Crist allowing Republican corruption scandals to continue to fester under his watch.

"Crist's defense of embattled Speaker Ray Sansom, continued support for his hand picked Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, and the fact that Crist bundler Harry Sargeant III remains RPOF Finance Chairman proves that while Crist continues smiling for the cameras his out-of-touch optimism and George W. Bush-like inattentiveness have allowed Republican corruption to fester, our economy to tank, and Floridians to suffer. Rather than stepping up to the plate and leading Florida during these tough times, Charlie Crist's only reaction is to say 'Next Question.' "

The memo continues:

"On the same day that Ray Sansom was sworn in as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Northwest Florida State College announced that Sansom was hired for a part-time, $110,000 per year job. As the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau and other media outlets throughout Florida began investigating, we learned that before taking this job, Sansom delivered more than $25-million to the college and pushed legislation to allow the school to offer 4 year degrees.

"The Times/Herald reported that more than $6-million of the money he delivered to the college was to build a hangar at the Destin Airport, on land controlled by Sansom's friend and major donor Jay Odom. Despite being funded by taxpayer dollars, this hangar would be used by Odom most of the time to store his jets according to the Times/Herald, citing documents and Odom's airport operations manager. The Palm Beach Post uncovered the fact that Sansom used his government office to fax in his job application to the college as well.

"On December 9, Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman called for Crist to 'immediately order the appropriate law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter to clear the ethics cloud around Sansom caused by the appearance of quid-pro-quo corruption.' Rather than ordering an investigation, Crist simply said, 'Next question,' while continuing to defend Ray Sansom."

About ROPF Chairman Jim Greer: "Jim Greer was installed in 2006 as Charlie Crist's handpicked Chairman of the RPOF. Despite the tradition that sitting governors can appoint the person they would like as the Chair of the State Party, Greer barely won his election. During his tenure as Chair, the Republican Party of Florida lost the only statewide race on the ballot and witnessed losses at all levels of government throughout Florida. With major questions about how the RPOF spends money, Greer is facing an insurgent campaign against him for the Chairmanship.

"Despite state laws requiring political parties to disclose how they spend their money, under Greer the Republican Party continues to hide more than $2,867,000 of their expenses by labeling them simply as payments to American Express. On Dec. 6, the Times/Herald reported that Greer had used RPOF money for personal expenses. Greer's opponents for RPOF Chair and others contend that Greer has used the party as his own slush fund, including prominent Republican operative Roger Stone implying on his Web site that Greer may have used RPOF money at 'gentlemen's clubs.' Trying to quell Greer's opponents, on Nov. 15 Crist endorsed Greer for another term as Chair."

About Harry Sargeant III: "Harry Sargeant III, who first met Charlie Crist when they were fraternity brothers in college, continues to serve as the Republican Party of Florida's Finance Chairman. Sargeant, a defense contractor, has been one of Crist's largest donors and fundraisers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Crist.

"In August 2008, John McCain was forced to return over $50,000 that was raised by Sargeant after the Washington Post uncovered the fact that many of the people Sargeant raised money from were straw donors or foreign nationals.

"Sargeant's company, International Oil Trading Co., has been accused of war profiteering by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which reported that Sargeant overcharged the Pentagon over $180-million to deliver fuel to U.S. military bases in Iraq.

"In October, Sargeant and his company were sued under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which alleges that Sargeant was involved in a 'bribery scheme' to pay off officials in the Kingdom of Jordan, in an effort to keep competing firms out. Charlie Crist has yet to address the issue and allows Sargeant to stay on in his senior role in the Republican Party."

About others: "In the closing weeks of the 2008 campaign, Crist endorsed, raised funds and campaigned for both Congressman Vern Buchanan and Congressman Tom Feeney. Buchanan and Feeney were both labeled two of the 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress by the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW).

"This week Vern Buchanan was labeled one of 10 Most Embarrassing Re-Elected Members of Congress by CREW, who write, '(Buchanan's) ethics issues stem from pressuring his employees to make contributions to his campaign committee and improper use of corporate resources for campaign purposes.' Crist's efforts to re-elect Buchanan helped make this happen.

"Feeney, who earned national attention for the 3 year FBI investigation into his relationship with Jack Abramoff, was defeated on Election Day despite Charlie Crist's best efforts."

The Republican rebuttal:

"Barack Obama has pledged to set up a bipartisan administration and revive the economy.  We take him at his word.  Florida Democrat Chairman Karen Thurman, however, refuses to follow the lead of President-Elect Obama, continuing to hurl hyper-partisan attacks across the aisle instead of working for change. 

"Under the leadership of Governor Crist, Republicans are working to get our economy back on track by accelerating transportation projects, increasing access to affordable health care, and helping homeowners facing foreclosure. Our goal is to stimulate the economy and keep taxes low, versus stimulating controversy for political hay and taking the low road. Republicans have also tried to reach across the aisle and appoint Democrats to leadership positions in the Legislature, but instead of accepting the positions and working with Republicans for change, the Democrats used the same old playbook and refused '…so that it would be easier for the minority party to criticize the GOP-run process.' (“House Democrats Decline Committee Leadership Positions,” http://www.palmbeachpost.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/palmbeach/floridapolitics/entries/2008/12/09/house_democrats_decline_commit.html?cxntfid=blogs_q_florida_politics)

While accusing Republicans of election losses, Thurman neglects to mention that the Florida Democrats had an unprecedented amount of cash, staff, and resources this election cycle, but they still couldn’t beat one Republican incumbent Legislator this year. 

"If Karen Thurman and the Democrats are interested in doing what’s best for Floridians, they would stop the nonsense, end the political games, and give up the ridiculous attacks.

"If the Democrats want to do what’s best for Republicans, they will keep up the same old attacks and repetitive losses.

"Meanwhile, we’ll keep providing strong leadership that the people will continue to support at the ballot box. We appreciate your assistance, Chairman Thurman!"

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[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 4:09pm]

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