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The story of Delmar Johnson and the $20k 'Resolute' desk scheme

01699_large The word that Tampa will host the Republican National Convention in 2012 is a perfect newshook for a never-reported embarrassment averted at the last GOP convention in Minnesota.

It involved Delmar Johnson, Charlie Crist, the Disney flick National Treasure and a $20,000 scheme to snare a replica of the White House desk Resolute, according to two trustworthy Republican sources who tell us the following:

Johnson, already running amok with his Republican Party of Florida credit card, wanted to make a splash at RPOF's convention event, National Treasure. The theme: “Charlie Crist is our National Treasure.” Really.

To pull it all off, Johnson wanted to have an Oval Office scene where folks could get their pictures taken at a replica of the desk known as the "Resolute," so named for the desk Queen Victoria gave in 1880 to President Rutherford B, Hayes (recipient of the White House, incidentally, in a disputed Florida election).

But Johnson, who would soon become exectuvie director of the party, wasn’t just thinking of all those donors and Republicans he wanted to impress with the desk. He was also considering his boss, RPOF Chairman Jim Greer. After shipping the desk out to St. Paul, well, it couldn’t just sit there. So the rational solution was to ship it on to Tallahassee.

“It’s a surprise for Jim. Don’t tell anyone,” Johnson, who won’t return calls, reportedly said.

But the expense didn’t go unnoticed. And on a conference call, then-consultant Jim Rimes brought up the $20,000 “miscellaneous” line item during a conference call about the party’s proposed convention budget, which neared $1.5 million.

“Hey, what’s this?” Rimes reportedly said.

Johnson: “That’s a backdrop. A set for a photo op.”

Rimes: “Yeah, that’s too expensive.”

Drat! Dream killed.

The story not only reveals the craftiness of Johnson, who sought to continually please his bosses (check out the oil-painting tale). It shows that Johnson was willing to engage in questionable spending. And there wasn’t much done to reign him in, except in this one case.

“That was the point where they started to be careful,” one staffer said.

Who cares what RPOF said in 2008? Our blog's national treasure is Delmar Johnson. (Note: updated story corrects errors re: Queen Victoria, Johnson's title)