A brewing battle surrounding disgraced former Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer, and who knew what among the party insiders, has so far come down to “he said-she said”.
Greer was forced out of his chairmanship in January 2010 and arrested five months later and indicted on six felony fraud and money laundering charges and four counts of grand theft. Since the abuse occurred while Greer headed the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), questions are now being raised to try and determine which, if any, other party leaders knew of Greer’s schemes.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Sen. George LeMieux — a longtime GOP insider and current Senate candidate — especially, are being thrust into the limelight.
Now, after months of silence, Greer is alleging that both Crist and LeMieux, who was appointed in 2009 by Crist to serve out the rest of Sen. Mel Martinez’s senate term, knew about almost everything that led to his eventual indictment. That includes the fake fundraising company Greer created — Victory Strategies LLC — that took about $125,000 from the RPOF and used the money for his own personal expenses.
Moreover, as emails obtained by the St. Petersburg Times indicate, Greer violated federal campaign finance laws by working on Crist’s 2010 Senate bid, using state party resources on a federal campaign.
Greer’s own accusations, and his extensive relationship with LeMieux, don’t bode well for the candidate. It was LeMieux, in fact, who originally recommended to Crist that he select Jim Greer for the chairmanship position in 2006.
Then in February 2008, after LeMieux left the governor’s office, Greer started paying LeMieux $10,000 a month to consult for and advise the RPOF. In November of that year, Greer began taking heat for mishandling party funds during the presidential election.
One year later, Greer and his top aide, Delmar Johnson, formed Victory Strategies, LLC. Greer’s attorney now says that LeMieux and Crist first gave the idea to Greer to form the fundraising company.
In the months that followed, both Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist filed to run for the Senate, while Greer attempted to get an exemption from party rules that would allow the RPOF to formally endorse the governor. The plan backfired.
But that didn’t keep Greer and Johnson from using state funds to support Crist. In June of 2009, for example, Johnson charged about $17,000 to his RPOF American Express Coporate card for “T-shirts, hats, and other merchandise” for Crist’s campaign.
In July, things only got worse. The RPOF effectively ran out of money and drew a $450,000 equity line of credit. That same month, Greer used RPOF funds to fly to two of Crist’s fundraisers — one in Aspen, Colorado and one in Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to an affidavit, RPOF CFO Richard Swartz started to demand payment from the Crist campaign in September for a poll conducted by the Greer-led Victory Strategies.
That fall, the mishandling of party finances and the RPOF’s coordination with Crist’s campaign, at the expense of Rubio, were thrust into public light. Then, GOP activists throughout the state began calling on Greer to resign.
The key for LeMieux is that the entire time Greer’s actions were unraveling his chairmanship, he was still serving as a top consultant. In November of that year, he even defended Greer, saying “Is he doing a good job? I think so. He’s working hard and he’s trying hard. I think he’ll be fine.”
One month later, it was revealed that the RPOF was $4 million in debt.
At that time, the St. Petersburg Times noted that “The uncomfirmed Buzz is that Sen. George LeMieux and Gov. Crist are the main ones urging Greer to stay on and that Crist has assured legislative leaders he will help raise money for whatever shortfall may exist in the party accounts.”
On January 5, 2010, Greer resigned. The theft was revealed in the months that followed, leading to his arrest and indictment in June.
In a statement, LeMieux commended Greer’s service and the “steadfast dedication and commitment that he has shown while serving as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida over the last three years.”
Now, some are beginning to ask what LeMieux knew, and when he knew it. As a close Crist adviser and a paid consultant with a one-of-a-kind contract with the RPOF at the time, some are asking, “How could LeMieux not have known?”.
“LeMieux’s got the most to lose and seems the most exposed,” a Florida GOP insider who worked at the RPOF under Greer told The Daily Caller. “Besides Jim Greer, LeMieux is the only one who had a special consulting contract with the party during those years.”
When contacted by TheDC, LeMieux’s spokesperson, Brian Seitchik, declined to expand on the candidate’s earlier statement that “It’s sad what’s happened to Jim Greer. He clearly took some very wrong turns. What he says is just not true.”
But while LeMieux continues to feel the pressure, there is speculation in Tallahassee that Greer may be getting ready to cut a deal that exposes even more misuse of party credit cards and throws some prominent Republicans under the bus — especially LeMieux and Crist, who are already under investigation by the IRS.
On August 25 an Orlando judge declined to throw out the six counts against Greer. And as the former chairman prepares for trial, Florida Republicans can only wait to see if he goes for a little payback while seeking vindication. In the meantime, LeMieux’s Senate race hangs in the balance.
*This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. Marco Rubio is not under investigation by the IRS.