Friday, February 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: For Greer, prison and unanswered questions

Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer deserved to go to prison for stealing money from the party, and the 18-month sentence he received Wednesday is appropriate. The sentence sends a message that even the state's most powerful political figures are accountable, and it recognizes that Greer was far from the only prominent Republican behaving badly. Yet the conclusion of the criminal case remains unsatisfying and leaves disturbing questions unanswered.

For example, Greer abruptly pleaded guilty last month to five felony charges without a plea deal after long promising to reveal more of the party's dirty secrets at trial. Why?

Greer and his wife regularly complained that the scandal had left them deserted by longtime friends and broke. Yet Greer suddenly showed up in court with a new lawyer in February and has repaid the state party $65,000. Where did the money come from?

Greer was charged with creating a secret company that contracted with the state Republican Party to raise money while he was chairman. Who knew about that deal? And what really happened during a 2008 trip to the Bahamas that included Greer, then-Gov. Charlie Crist, billionaire and former party finance chairman Harry Sargeant III and dozens of large Republican donors?

Without a trial, the answers may never be known — and that is just the way powerful Republicans want it. Among those scheduled to testify were Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat who is considering running for his old job; former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Crist's former chief of staff; and prominent Republican legislators. But even without a trial, the depth of the reckless spending, poor judgment and arrogance exposed by the Greer scandal has stained the Republican Party and some of the state's most prominent political figures.

Crist can expect more questions about his poor judgment. He says he didn't know Greer created the company to raise money for the party. But he hand-picked Greer as chairman, and there was plenty of evidence that Greer was misbehaving and that the state party was out of control. Then there is Sargeant, who previously gave money to Greer. If Greer was paid to plead guilty and given money to repay the state party, Sargeant would be a likely benefactor. Sargeant won't talk and has his own issues, including a federal investigation into accusations his shipping business overcharged the Pentagon by more than $200 million.

Orlando Circuit Judge Marc Lubet went lower than the sentencing guidelines and rejected the prosecutors' request for a 3 ½-year prison sentence for Greer. It is a reasonable punishment that reflects that Greer pleaded guilty, paid restitution and is far from the only bad actor in this mess. Whether Greer's prison sentence is harsh enough to permanently change the culture in Tallahassee is less certain.

Gov. Rick Scott has no connection to this episode, and legislators are pursuing campaign reforms. Yet the legislation does not make the state political parties more transparent or accountable for their fundraising, and it actually opens the money spigot for political action committees. The former state Republican Party chairman is now a convicted felon and headed to prison. If that does not make clear the dangers of secrecy and an unlimited flow of big money into state politics, nothing will.

Comments
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18