Monday, June 25, 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.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

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Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

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Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

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Published: 06/21/18

Editorial: Florida needs to explain its own price gouging

In the wake of Hurricane Irma last fall, Attorney General Pam Bondi vowed to scour Florida to prevent businesses from exploiting consumers by price gouging. It turns out she could have just looked down the hall in the state capitol. Based on reportin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18