'Quid pro quo' claim dogs Crist at just the wrong time
A convicted Ponzi schemer's court claims that Charlie Crist engaged in a contributions-for-favors "quid pro quo" has come at a damaging time for the former governor who wants his old job back.
Crist's campaign and defenders vociferously denied Scott Rothstein's testimony Wednesday and Thursday as the desperate act of a fraudster seeking to shave time off a 50-year prison sentence for the $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme he masterminded.
But Rothstein's veracity aside, the political damage is tolling on Crist, who's in the midst of a national book tour.
The allegations reverberated in the news media, highlighted past political scandals tied to former Crist donors and put the Democratic candidate on the defensive over making ethics a centerpiece of his campaign against Gov. Rick Scott, who once ran a hospital company socked with a mammoth $1.7 billion fraud fine.
Now Rothstein's claims have allowed Republicans to step up their criticisms of Crist's ethics when he was governor from 2007-2011.
"Scott Rothstein is the Hannibal Lecter of liars," said Dan Gelber, a Crist ally and lawyer who successfully defended a client from what he said were false Rothstein claims in another case. "He's the most-accomplished liar in South Florida history, which is an incredible feat if you consider all of the scamsters around here."
Rothstein rendered his two days of testimony in yet another unrelated case tied to an associate in his former Fort Lauderdale law firm, which sold bogus legal settlements to investors as part of his mammoth Ponzi scheme. Under oath, Rothstein portrayed the former Republican governor, Crist, as someone who essentially sold "a few" unspecified Broward County circuit court judicial appointments in return for political contributions.
Crist had tapped Rothstein to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the Fourth District Court of Appeal and the Broward Circuit Court.
"He knew how that game was played. I expected him to do certain things in exchange for large contributions," Rothstein told a defense attorney Thursday in a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach.