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Florida Republicans took the word 'party' too literally

Q. Say, can you explain this scandal about the Republican Party of Florida?

A. Sure, it's simple. The first thing that happened was that the governor chose a guy named Jim Greer as the state party chairman …

Q. Who was Jim Greer?

A. Assistant dogcatcher in Oviedo, I think. But the governor got to choose his own loyal guy. Anyway, then Greer hired Delmar as the party's executive director …

Q. Wait. Who's Delmar?

A. Delmar Johnson.

Q. That is his real name?

A. As far as I know. Delmar was, I think, 12 or 14 years old at the time. But you are interrupting. So we find out that Greer gives Delmar's company a contract in which he gets a piece of the action of big campaign contributions …

Q. Okay, stop again. Delmar was running the Republican Party of Florida, but he had his own company getting a piece of the action for money the party raised?

A. Correct. Only then, we found out that Greer actually co-owned that company with Delmar, and so now everybody wants an investigation.

Q. Wait again! So, the chairman of the Republican Party was part of a company, along with the party's executive director, that was getting a piece of the action from the party's contributions?

A. Indeed. But I also have to tell you about a secret deal …

Q. Naturally.

A. … that all the top brass of the party tried to negotiate with Greer after he resigned, saying that he didn't do anything wrong and was entitled to a big pot of money.

Q. Really? Who would offer a deal like that?

A. Uh, all the top Republicans in the Legislature, including John Thrasher, the guy who was elected later to take Greer's place …

Q. Wait! How could John Thrasher help negotiate a deal with Greer when he wasn't even going to be party chairman until later?

A. Beats me. But when the deal came out, everybody tried to hem and haw and say they didn't actually have a signed deal with Greer, which he says he did, so now he is suing, and it is one big mess. But of course I have not gotten to the credit cards.

Q. Credit cards?

A. The Republicans handed out credit cards to lots of their pooh-bahs around the state, including Greer, and Delmar, and top legislators, and they ended up charging, let's see here … (shuffles papers) a total of $3.6 million to those cards between January 2007 and June 2009, for everything from fancy restaurants to chartered jets.

Q. I'm sorry, $3.6 million? That is a lot of wining and dining. Is there anything else?

A. Only, I suppose, that several top members of the Legislature, Republican and Democrat alike, have their own fundraising committees to take even more of this kind of money from interest groups.

Q. Does this have anything to do with the "leadership funds" that the Republicans in charge of the Legislature want to legalize again?

A. Precisely. Same deal, except now it would be official — interest groups would pay money directly to the future speaker of the House and president of the Senate, and they would use it for political purposes. The bill to allow this has already passed the Legislature, and the governor will probably sign it any second, if he hasn't already.

Q. Good grief! Don't you have anything good to say about the Republican Party of Florida?

A. Yes. At least it is the party of fiscal restraint.

Florida Republicans took the word 'party' too literally 04/05/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 6, 2010 6:24pm]
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