From the start, it was clear that the criminal case against former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer would expose some dirty laundry at the GOP.
Now it’s getting so dirty it’s downright whacky.
Greer’s lawyer was prepared to claim that, when he was governor, Charlie Crist made a pass at the former chairman at a Beverly Hills hotel, that he paid two former male lovers to leave the state, and that the governor’s guards covered up numerous drunken “escapades” — including the time the gov allegedly nearly ran over golfers while he drove a golf cart under the influence.
Crist — an abstemious drinker who has fought rumors about his sexuality since and before his 2008 marriage to Carole Oumano — has called the allegations “delusional lies.” Crist reported the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as evidence of “witness tampering” by Greer for allegedly trying to unlawfully pressure the former governor to change his testimony in the fraud case.
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The claims from Greer lawyer Damon Chase arose only after the governor refused to recant his previous written testimony in which Crist said he had no idea that his party chairman in 2009 had taken over RPOF fundraising responsibilities for a cut of the profits. Chase wanted Crist to issue a new sworn affidavit that claimed he and party leaders knew about Greer’s secret fundraising arrangement, which is at the heart of the state’s criminal case against Greer.
Crist refused to file the flip-flop of an affidavit. Chase then moved to depose the former governor to ask him about his drinking habits and his sexuality.
“Jim is desperate and using you as a way to extort Charlie with embarrassing questions. Like ‘when was the last time you [expletive] your neighbor’s sheep’ or ‘are you still beating your wife,’” Crist’s boss and attorney, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, wrote in a May 14 email to Chase.
Chase responded: “Charlie clearly lied and now one by one his closest friends are coming out against him because what he did to Greer was just wrong. In the event Charlie remains unwilling to clarify his affidavit, I’m left with no other choice than to discredit him. I don’t find that type of practice particularly tasteful, but sometimes I suppose it’s necessary.’’
Chase pointed out that other Republican insiders said in depositions and affidavits that Crist knew of Greer’s fundraising deal or aspects of it.
True or not, the image of a hammered governor almost plowing into golfers is a scream. And the idea that he got all sloppy drunk and tried to smooch Greer at a hotel is profoundly unsettling.
Crist “would have to be a sick son of a bitch to try to kiss Porky the Pig,” Morgan told an FDLE case agent, who noted the statement was “in reference to Greer.”
It’s unclear if the FDLE is still pursuing Crist’s witness-tampering claim against Greer. Crist has yet to be deposed in the criminal case against Greer, who has pleaded not guilty and, in the words of Chase, was a “fall guy.” The back-and-forth between Crist and Greer’s camp was released Friday as part of the discovery documents in Greer’s case.
The case against Greer, scheduled for trial in July, could unfold in an Orlando courtroom as late as August during the Republican National Convention in Tampa less than two hours away. Greer’s latest allegations against Crist surface just as some insiders are whispering that the former governor, a Republican-turned-independent, could make an appearance at the Democratic National Convention days later in preparation for a bid as a Democrat to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Gay activists — some of whom have tried to prove Crist is gay — are sure to howl about using homosexuality as a smear in and of itself.
In one way or another, the case has roped in every high-level Republican Party official who served while Crist was governor from 2007-2010, before he left the Republican Party and was beaten in the U.S. Senate race by Marco Rubio.
That Senate race provided the spark that blew the Crist-controlled GOP to bits and helped expose Greer’s fundraising contract through a corporation he secretly controlled called Victory Strategies. His partner in the alleged crime, former party executive director Delmar Johnson, ratted Greer out in return for a lesser sentence.
Greer’s camp wants to make the state GOP look like a piggy bank for pols and is itching to pull in Rubio for ringing up questionable expenses on a party credit card. Greer says he was only indicted after Republicans, who control the state levers of power, reneged on an agreement to pay him a secret severance package, the existence of which party insiderslied about.
A central argument in Greer’s defense: The Victory Strategies deal saved the party money because, in 2009, he replaced one-time fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke — now a Mitt Romney fundraiser — who was earning $30,000 monthly to raise gobs of party money. So if Greer saved the party money, how could it claim it was ripped off? Republicans point out the Victory Strategies deal was secret and sneaky. The problem with that argument: Party politics and finances (including the Democrats’) are secret and sneaky.
Regardless, it’s difficult to believe these latest claims are true.
Greer has never mentioned them before and, along with other one-time defenders of Crist, once explicitly told me (as did Crist himself) that the former governor isn’t gay.
When Crist’s political opponents in 2006 tried to steer reporters to his alleged gay lovers, none would confirm having a relationship with Crist. The overwhelming evidence then pointed to Crist being a heterosexual bachelor who had loads of girlfriends. Indeed, evidence surfaced that Crist might have fathered a child out of wedlock — which he denies as well.
Judging by Greer’s latest claims, it looks like the issue of Crist’s sexuality will part of the state’s politics.
So pull out the popcorn, gawk at what Crist and Greer have wrought and remember: just when you think we can’t shatter the ceiling of weird or fall through the ground floor of tawdry in Florida, stuff like this is bound to come along.