July 07, 2010

1 "Republican" Horseman rides to the other's defense

Sen. John Thrasher, RPOF chairman and one of the so-called "Four Horsemen (more here)," ripped Republican Rick Scott for questioning Attorney General Bill McCollum (another horseman and Scott's opponent for governor) for his role in the Jim Greer scandal.

McCollum, like other Republican legislative leaders, long brushed off criticism of Greer's management and pleas that he help oust Greer and initially downplayed the significance of Greer's entering into a little-known fundraising contract. Thrasher suggests otherwise in a statement today that may draw some eye-rolling of those who tried to get McCollum to do something far sooner:

“Attorney General McCollum, Speaker-Designate Cannon, Senate President -Designate Haridopolos and I stood up to Governor Crist and worked to remove Jim Greer as Chairman because of his mismanagement of the Party. When evidence of the wrongdoing Jim Greer has now been indicted for was presented to us, Attorney General McCollum acted swiftly to refer our findings to the proper authorities.

“Mr. Scott’s repeated attacks on Attorney General McCollum, Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos are not based in truth and come straight from Jim Greer's talking points.  I'm hopeful Rick Scott will begin to lay out a positive message for why he is running for the Republican nomination to be our next Governor, instead of continuing to release false statements regarding fellow Republicans.”

June 11, 2010

Greer seeks delay in civil case as new documents emerge

Indicted former GOP Chairman Jim Greer is asking a judge to put his civil lawsuit against the Republican Party of Florida on hold until his criminal case is finished.

Greer sued the party in May after FDLE acknowledged the criminal investigation that led to six felony charges earlier this month ranging from money laundering to organized fraud concerning a secret contract he authorized to skim party contributions to a company he owned. He contends the party never paid him the $124,000 owed under a severance agreement signed by party leaders in exchange for his resignation.

Greer's attorney, Damon Chase of Lake Mary, filed a motion to abate at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Seminole County court. "In as much as Greer's criminal indictment appears more, at least in part, to be the latest attempt in a long line of attempts by RPOF to avoid its obligations under the the severance agreement, Greer respectfully requests this honorable court abate the instant matter until resolution of the criminal matter as opposed to outright dismissing his facially meritorious claim," Chase states in the motion obtained by the Times/Herald.

The documents filed with the court include a number of new details that indicate incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon repeatedly assured Greer that the party would honor the contract even after the interim executive director, Bret Prater, tried to end the deal.

Continue reading "Greer seeks delay in civil case as new documents emerge" »

June 02, 2010

Thrasher: GOP board members questioned in Greer probe

Florida GOP Chairman John Thrasher told reporters Wednesday that the party is cooperating with current investigation that led to Jim Greer's arrest. He said authorities questioned several members of the state's executive committee about Victory Strategies, the political firm controlled by Greer that siphoned party money, but he didn't name names.

Thrasher also repeated claims that the party didn't know about the Victory Strategies agreement between Greer and Delmar Johnson, the former executive director of the party and part-owner in the company who is cooperating with investigators. "I think it clearly was a secret agreement," said Thrasher, who said he didn't know about it until it was reported in the newspapers.

Greer's attorneys have provided drafts of a severance agreement that indicates that party officials knew of it's existence well before the contract was discovered during a routine party audit and presented to authorities on Mar. 15.

Continue reading "Thrasher: GOP board members questioned in Greer probe" »

May 21, 2010

Thrasher said he wouldn't sanction Fasano

With the Pasco County GOP filing a complaint against Republican Sen. Mike Fasano for supporting nonpartisan Charlie Crist, Buzz dug through the notebook to find this interview gem with Party Chairman John Thrasher the day before Crist bolted.

At the time, Thrasher said he wouldn't whipsaw Republicans who didn't shun Crist, despite a previous warning about the party's loyalty oath. And he specifically mentioned Fasano:

Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald: How about people that do support (Crist). Will there be repercussions within the party if there are Republicans who stay and support him?

Thrasher: No, I don't think of any (repercussions). I think Sen. Fasano said he is probably going to continue to support him. (Fasano) is my friend. I respect what he's doing. That's his choice.

Klas: And you would support Fasano if he choose to run for something in the future?

Thrasher: Sen. Fasano is my friend.

Given this, it doesn't sound likely Fasano will face sanctions.

May 08, 2010

More juicy details from the GOP credit cards

The unprecedented look at Republican Party of Florida spending in its credit card statements is the gift that keeps on giving. Below find some more questionable expenses and interesting factoids:

Delmar's Valentine's Day trip: Former GOP Executive Director Delmar Johnson resigned Feb. 1. So why did his credit card statement include a four-night stay worth more than a $1,000 at a Courtyard Marriott in West Palm Beach over Valentine's Day weekend? It is possible someone else used Johnson's card, which is what he has said happened frequently, but it's interesting that the party would use the card of an official leaving under a cloud of suspicion. (And don't worry, if Delmar didn't go, he still spent $900 for two nights at Fontainebleau Resort in Miami Beach the week before he left the party.)

Continue reading "More juicy details from the GOP credit cards" »

Who spent the most on GOP plastic? Here's the list.

The Republican Party of Florida released 2,452 double-sided pages of credit card statements Friday revealing 31 card holders spent about $7.3 million from January 2007 through March 2010. Below is the list of every card holder and how much they spent. (Do note that the totals only reflect charges starting in 2007, even though many of these officials held American Express cards prior to that date.)

Jim Rimes, former executive director: $2.2 million

Delmar Johnson, former executive director: $1.4 million

Melanie Phister, aide to former Speaker Ray Sansom: $1.2 million

Debbie Bishop, deputy finance director: $694,000

Jim Greer, former chairman: $478,000

Cameron Ulrich, Senate campaigns finance director: $208,000

Carrie Madden, Senate campaigns staffer: $175,000

Ray Sansom, former House speaker: $167,000

Dean Cannon, incoming House speaker: $124,000

Jeremy Collins, special assistant to Greer: $118,000

Continue reading "Who spent the most on GOP plastic? Here's the list." »

April 29, 2010

April 28, 2010

Thrasher won't 'whipsaw' GOP to oppose Crist

The Republican Party of Florida recently reminded members about the loyalty oath to temper support for Gov. Charlie Crist's nonpartisan bid. But GOP Chairman John Thrasher said the party won't force top Republicans to shun Crist.

"It's not up to me to enforce it," he said. "I'm not going to go out and whipsaw people to ask them to go after their money."

(Though it appears the Republican Party did erase Crist's prominent placement on it's website, instead featuring Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp on the main page.)

Thrasher said a number of Republicans will "feel betrayed by him" if Crist bolts from the party, as is expected.

"I hope he doesn’t use any justification for what he’s doing on the basis that ‘the Republican Party has left him’ because our principles are still the same," he said, previewing the messaging that is sure to come tomorrow.

He added that Crist can't run as a nonpartisan and still claim to be a Republican. "That don’t cut it for me," he told reporters. "You are either a Republican or you’re not.That’s why we have R's behind our names."

Continue reading "Thrasher won't 'whipsaw' GOP to oppose Crist" »

Greer received $125,000 through secret party contract

Florida GOP officials said Tuesday that former party Chairman Jim Greer received $125,000 through Victory Strategies, the shell company he owned that siphoned party donations through a secret contract with then-executive director Delmar Johnson.

Jason Gonzalez, the party's general counsel, said officials discovered the information recently amid the ongoing internal audit into Greer's management of the party, which ended with his ouster in January. Victory Strategies received a total of $200,000 from the party and the clandestine contract spurred a criminal investigation. Greer countered with a civil suit, alleging the party failed to honor a severance agreement.

Greer contends the party knew about the Victory Strategies arrangement and the party initially deemed the contract invalid because Greer never signed it. But party officials said the legal strategy is shifting to suggest the severance is void because Greer defrauded the party.

The battle between Greer and the Republican Party of Florida now involves three former U.S. attorneys. The party hired Ken Sukhia, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, to defend the civil lawsuit Greer filed against the party.

Continue reading "Greer received $125,000 through secret party contract" »

Crist's friend received RPOF gig for questionable work

UPDATED: Jay Burmer's firms actually received more than $350,000 through a "strategic media planning" contract with the party. Read new details here.

As forensic auditors scour the finances at the Republican Party of Florida after the ouster of former Chairman Jim Greer, one agreement is sure to raise a red flag: $316,000 the party paid to Jay Burmer, a close friend to Gov. Charlie Crist.

In a 2 1/2 year period ending in December 2009, Burmer's company Green Wolf Group, LLC received about $10,000 a month, according to the party's federal campaign finance reports, to serve as an outside communications consultant to the party.

It's a vague description for apparently vague work. GOP party officials -- former and current -- said they knew little about Burmer's role and it's unclear whether he ever signed a contract with the party.

What is known is Burmer's connection to Crist, who put Greer at the helm of the party in November 2006 when he took office. It's not clear who authorized his contract, whether it was Greer or a request from Crist.

Crist said in an interview that he knew Burmer worked for the party and called him a smart guy.

Continue reading "Crist's friend received RPOF gig for questionable work" »