The arrest of Jim Greer today marks the culmination of a year long scandal at the Florida Republican party that began with revelations of personal spending sprees on party credit cards and has now escalated to criminal charges of fraud and grand theft.
Greer, who spent three years as chair of the Florida GOP after being handpicked for the slot by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007, allegedly skimmed 10% of GOP fundraising revenue for his own shell company, which had been secretly awarded a party contract by Greer. He was ousted from the party in January amid charges of financial mismanagement.
For Crist, who is now running as an Independent for U.S. Senate and said today he does not “feel complicit” in the Greer case, the charges promise a headache that will remind voters of his GOP past and provide the Dems with attack ad fodder (they have already pounced). Depending on whether the case goes to trial, it could become a permanent part of the backdrop of this election season.
At the moment, Greer’s attorney says he is innocent and plans to fight the charges — four counts of grand theft and one each of organized scheme to defraud and money laundering.
Greer allegedly used the money he gained from that secret fundraising contract — well over $100,000 — on his upscale lifestyle. His home in Oviedo in central Florida reportedly features a wine cellar and a pool; he drove a Mercedes and bought his own plane. This is a man who likes to be a big shot — he once had a staffer bring him blank notes at a national GOP meeting to cultivate an air of importance.
The arrest affidavit also alleges that Greer tried to get a cut of the profits of a prominent professional fundraiser who worked for the GOP — and when she refused, he cut off her access to Crist. (And in TPMmuckraker’s favorite development of the day, the affidavit alleges that when Greer last year made a show of snipping up his AmEx card to usher in an era of fiscal responsibility at the party, he had actually cut a staffer’s card, not his own.)
As TPMmuckraker noted when Crist switched his party affiliation in April, he is not the only Florida Senate candidate who could be tarred with allegations of ethical impropriety. Republican Marco Rubio spent thousands on his GOP-issued credit card on items like groceries, car repairs, and a $134 haircut. And Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek reportedly sought earmarks in Congress for a developer who gave a loan to a Meek staffer and hired Meek’s mother. In short, this is shaping up to be the single muckiest race of 2010 …