Forensic auditors going through the books of the Florida Republican Party recently discovered that a close friend of Gov. Charlie Crist was paid over $350,000 for unspecified consulting work that no one seems to have known about. But, the former No. 2 at the state party tells TPMmuckraker, that revelation may be only the beginning.
“I think there were a lot of cronies that were receiving pay washed through the Republican Party of Florida,” says Allen Cox, who stepped down as vice chair of the party in January after going after chairman and Crist ally Jim Greer, who was ousted soon after, for financial mismanagement.
Cox, a semi-retired businessman based in Gulf County, Florida, said he had never heard the name Jay Burmer until he read a story in the St. Petersburg Times Wednesday reporting that, in a three-year period, Burmer was paid about $10,000 per month by the state party for communications consulting.
Cox was vice chair of the party since 2007, and he was chair of the party’s budget committee for seven years; it was in the latter capacity that he first called out Greer’s spending habits. When he heard about the lucrative deal with Burmer, who has reportedly been close with Crist since the two attended Florida State University together, Cox called eight or nine friends who are active in the state GOP.
“I checked with a number of lobbyists in Tallahassee and politics people and none of us had never heard of him or had any idea what he could have been doing for the Republican Party of Florida,” he says. While, as vice chair of the board, Cox did not have a day-to-day role in the finances of the party, he says that “for something of this magnitude to be done in secret and no one knows who the individual is or what the work is, is highly, highly unusual.”
The Times found much the same, reporting that “[w]hat Burmer did for the GOP is apparently a mystery to current and former party staffers, most of whom say they barely knew his role.”
Cox, who remains a member of the party’s state executive committee and says he has not taken a position in the Senate contest, believes that the forensic audit may well turn up additional examples of questionable spending.
“We wonder quite frankly, among the officers of the board, how many other secrets or secret deals might have existed in the Republican Party of Florida under Jim Greer and Charlie Crist.”