Secret contract, lavish spending push Republican Party of Florida to crisisHow does that make you feel about money you've donated to the Florida Republican Party? Not good? Well, it just keeps getting better.
As a volatile election season gets under way, the Republican Party of Florida is facing its biggest crisis of confidence in decades.
Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising.
Another sign of trouble came Monday with news that incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon transferred $665,000 of party money in the days surrounding Greer's resignation to a separate political committee called the Florida Liberty Fund, suggesting lack of confidence in the party election machine.
Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist's hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. The contract would pay Johnson a 10 percent commission on all major donations to the state Republican Party.
Greer made a show of rescinding the party credit cards of top elected officials and cutting up his American Express card last summer to stem criticism of party spending. But internal records obtained by the Times/Herald show heavy spending continued — on Johnson's card: $100 flower arrangement for the wives of Greer and Gov. Crist; thousands of dollars in meals; $15,000 to charter a jet to George LeMieux's swearing in as U.S. senator; and another $1,800 for in-flight catering services. The spending helped Johnson rack up more than 1 million American Express points.
I guess it really pays to be a friend of Charlie. But then, money is no object when you are paying with other people's money. Somehow, I don't think that this is what donors had in mind when they dug deep in to their pockets mistakenly believing that they were supporting Republican candidates. Here's the kicker:
Crist has said he didn't know about Johnson's contract, but some activists aren't satisfied. Crist is the de facto head of the party and its biggest fundraiser.
Sorry, but if anybody believes that Charlie was unaware of what was going on in his own inner circle I would strongly suggest they put the pill bottle down.
I don't donate to the party anymore and I won't in the future unless I see some very big changes. Any money I wish to donate will go straight to the candidate of my choice. The way I see it, I can't afford to go jetting around and I'm sure not going to pay for party "leaders" to do it.