Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos abruptly quit the U.S. Senate race today, noting the rigors of the running a chamber of the Legislature while campaigning for higher office.
Haridopolos has endured months of tough press -- from his campaign shakeup to the fact that he had a sweetheart gig writing a book for a community college to getting rapped for filing inaccurate and incomplete financial disclosure forms three times.
One more piece of bad news looms: The criminal case against former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer. Greer was charged last year for defrauding the party by setting up a shell company, Victory Strategies, that raised money and diverted a portion of the funds to his bank account. Haridopolos could be deposed as early as August.
It turns out that Haridopolos former/longtime campaign advisor, Pat Bainter, might have been up to his neck in secret talks with Greer, another Republican has said in a court deposition.
But Greer says it was all perfectly legal -- and Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon had signed off on Victory Strategies when they inked a secret severance agreement with him. Greer also said that Cannon and Haridopolos used go-betweens to settle the matter.
Cannon and Haridopolos have denied the claims.
Haridopolos, though, had also denied signing any contract. But then he had to eat his words when Greer released a copy of it. Haridopolos also denied trying to arrange a $200,000 payment to Greer. But former Seminole County Republican Chairman Jim Stelling said in a deposition that Bainter actually offered the money -- even though the contract in question was worth less, about $124,000.
"In one conversation Mr. Bainter mentioned $200,000," Stelling said he testified.
"I said why," Stelling said.
"It's just the right thing to do," Bainter said, according to Stelling, who recounted his deposition to The Miami Herald.
Greer’s lawyer, Cheney Mason (of Casey Anthony fame), suggested that Bainter’s departure from Haridopolos’s campaign was tied to the criminal case.
“Some of the rats are leaving the ship because they won’t lie under oath,” Mason said. “I’m going to depose these political leaders involved in the conspiracy against Greer and give them an opportunity to perjure themselves.”
Bainter, who is also scheduled to be deposed, hasn't returned calls.