One of the most eye-popping recent revelations about former Florida GOP chair Jim Greer is that, when he was struggling with money problems, one generous Republican donor ponied up $10,000 per month for over 18 months to help Greer out, according to the criminal fraud charges against Greer.
But the story just got even better: none other than Palm Beach County businessman Harry Sargeant, who has been popping up as a player in political scandals since John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, has acknowledged to the Miami Herald that he is the donor who stepped in to give Greer a hand. Sargeant is a friend of Gov. Charlie Crist and a former state GOP official.
Greer’s lawyer, Damon Chase, tells TPMmuckraker that Greer was paid the money — at least $180,000 in all — for “business consulting.” He said he did not have specifics on what services Greer rendered, but noted that “he reported it on his taxes.”
A quick refresher course on Sargeant: a college frat brother of Crist and a major GOP donor over the years, he loaned his corporate jet to Crist’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign. The Palm Beach County businessman first found himself attracting national media attention after the McCain camp returned tens of thousands of dollars of questionable donations bundled by Sargeant and a business partner. Sargeant, who has made a fortune in the asphalt business, was also the recipient of a controversial contract to provide fuel to the U.S. military in the Mideast.
In early 2009, Sargeant resigned from his post as finance chairman of the Florida GOP, a month before his business associate was indicted on charges of funneling illegal contributions to McCain and Crist.
Sargeant’s role in the current scandal was first described in the criminal complaint against Greer released last week, which says that a GOP donor started giving Greer $10,000 per month after Greer, who was regularly overdrawing his bank accounts for thousands of dollars, “pleaded for financial help.”
Sargeant told the Miami Herald that Greer is a friend and he did not get anything in return for the money. He also told the Herald the payments stopped in September 2009, which puts the start date of the arrangement around March 2008.
Chase, Greer’s lawyer, tells TPMmuckraker that in fact, the payments were for business consulting. “Jim Greer, as opposed to all the other people running the GOP, wasn’t a politician, he was a business man,” Chase says.
“He consulted with businesses on various issues. Harry Sargeant is a business man. Businesses retain consultants.”