Days before the start of his corruption trial, the once powerful head of Florida’s Republican Party (Jim Greer) has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies—including theft and money laundering—for stealing north of $200,000 in party funds.
Republicans dodged a bullet with the surprising last-minute plea deal because damaging information about the party’s wild spending sprees was expected to be exposed during the trial. In fact, one national news report says Greer’s criminal trial had promised to be embarrassing for party leaders, including “rising Republican star Marco Rubio,” the U.S. Senator who spent years in the Florida House and served as speaker.
Another news report claims that Greer’s unexpected guilty plea means “potentially scandalous secrets will remain secret.” They include accusations of sexual impropriety; funneling campaign money through secret corporations; golf carts allegedly full of prostitutes. In short, a “painful unpeeling of state party secrets,” would have taken place at trial, according to a separate north Florida newspaper story.
Some of the state’s most powerful politicians were on the witness list, including former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, former Governor Charlie Crist and Florida’s former Attorney General Bill McCollum. It was billed as a political drama, an airing of dirty laundry and insider power plays during Greer’s three years at the help of the Florida GOP.
So Greer took one for the team and abruptly pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and one count of money laundering for stealing more than $200,000 from party coffers by steering the money to a shell company. In 2010 a south Florida grand jury indicted Greer on six counts, but the state dropped one (organized fraud). Greer likely faces about 3 ½ years in prison.
The story of Greer’s rapid political ascent is quite interesting. He was vice mayor of a tiny central Florida town called Oviedo when Crist, now a Democrat, picked him to be the state GOP chairman in 2006. The surprising move appeared to be Crist’s way of showing Greer appreciation for heading local efforts to get him elected governor. Crist had been a Florida state senator, education commissioner and attorney general before running for governor.