Billionaire with colorful past said to be considering jumping in Florida Senate race should Crist leave the GOP

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Mike Tyson was the best man in his wedding. Former madam Heidi Fleiss once lived in his house. And now, depending on what Gov. Charlie Crist decides to do later this week, he could be the man who allows Democrats to pick up a seat in the soap-opera saga that is the Florida Senate race.

Jeff Greene, the Florida billionaire who founded Florida Sunshine Realty & Investment and was listed by Forbes as one of the 400 richest people in the world, is said to be considering a primary challenge to Rep. Kendrick Meek for the Democratic nomination, a well-placed Democratic strategist told The Daily Caller.

Meek is generally seen as a weak candidate with dismal chances of defeating the Republican candidate. Greene’s thinking, said the strategist, is that an independent candidacy by Crist would siphon votes from Republican Marco Rubio, and make the seat much more attainable for Democrats with a strong candidate.

Donor records viewed by The Daily Caller show that Greene has donated money to Democratic causes, including $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and even $500 to potential opponent Meek. According to Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, Greene, who made his fortune by pioneering credit default, has been soliciting advice from Democratic consultants Doug Schoen, Joe Trippi and Paul Blank.

A Greene candidacy would come with colorful baggage. In addition to his friendship with Fleiss and Tyson, Greene went to court with director Ron Howard in a dispute over rental property. As Forbes put it in a profile: “When Greene is not sailing he bounces between five homes, including a 63,000-square-foot one in Beverly Hills, Calif. Greene dubbed the mansion Palazzo di Amore prior to using it last year to host his $1 million wedding, which the 53-year-old is quick to point out was his first.”

The prospect of Greene making a bid for office at time when the country is struggling to recover from a recession triggered by the collapse of the housing market may strike some as ironic — his wealth came from betting against the housing market. When subprime mortages fell, he got rich when his credit default swaps rose in value. He brought in $800 million in profit, and next he knew, he was on the Forbes 400 and was worth $1.4 billion.

Doug Schoen did not respond to emails asking for comment, and attempts by The Daily Caller to reach Greene were unsuccessful.

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