Lest you think I am a Republican hack. Here is a tidbit for all you corruption hounds. It seems that the GOP in Florida may have been playing fast and loose with the funds the people donate to the party in general. They (the leaders of the party) were living the high life on contributors dimes. Lots of good times and even a apparent sweetheart deal for party chairman Jim Greer as a consultant through a fake company. Gang it is not the Dems or the GOP it is POLITICIANS. People with power become corrupted by it. Our founders knew that and wanted a citizen legislature. Please I implore you read Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. We do not have that anymore. We need to make the Senate and House a short visit not a career. I will say it until I am blue in the face. Term Limits and NO FEDERAL pension for elected officials.
Former Office Manager Details Florida GOP’s Spending Scandal
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Long before criminal investigations shook the Republican Party of Florida, office manager Susan Wright noticed a problem: Higher-ups were spending party money to help themselves instead of the GOP.
Thousands of dollars were dropped at Las Vegas restaurants, a casino resort and a Wayne Newton concert. She saw thousands more in questionable expenses for trips and swank accommodations in Boston, Beverly Hills and Miami.
And she was among the first Republican staffers to voice concerns about a $200,000 party contract with a shell company called Victory Strategies, now at the center of fraud and theft charges against former chairman Jim Greer, who has pleaded not guilty.
Wright, 57, didn’t know all the details, but fretted to her supervisors and co-workers that the party was running out of money and couldn’t afford it all.
“I was told to keep my mouth shut,” she said.
Wright didn’t. So she was fired.
Now a witness in the state criminal case against Greer, Wright is breaking months of public silence to detail for the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald the problems she saw at party headquarters under Greer and his right-hand man, Delmar Johnson, who is avoiding jail time in return for testifying against Greer.
Wright had access to expense reports, contracts, pay information and vacation time for nearly every party worker. She saw firsthand internal party documents detailing the big charges, from $1,290 at the Palazzo Las Vegas Resort Hotel Casino to the nearly $5,000 that Greer and his wife, Lisa, spent for a getaway in exclusive Fisher Island, home of Gov. Charlie Crist’s wife.
“Five-thousand friggin’ dollars?” she exclaimed when she asked about the purpose of the expense.
She said she never got an answer, only demands and insinuations that she be silent.
The big party spending came to light this spring when the Times/Herald and other media obtained records of Republican leaders’ party-issued American Express cards. But Wright says Greer and Johnson also frequently used their personal credit cards for expenses, such as the $243 in Wayne Newton “Before I Go” performance tickets, that were reimbursed by the party.
Investigative documents and some top Republicans confirm Wright was among the first insiders to raise red flags about the spending.
Weeks after she was fired in January, Wright was flown to West Palm Beach by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to tell her story to a federal prosecutor, an FBI agent and an Internal Revenue Service official. Wright was interviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in March.
Wright’s observations not only helped investigators uncover alleged wrongdoing, but they also revealed a deep level of dysfunction in a political party that fostered a sense of entitlement among some top-ranking members and fear among the rank and file.
Wright started working for the Republican Party of Florida in September 2007, nine months after Crist made Greer chairman.
By the middle of 2009, Wright said, the party was so “broke” that it paid some of its bills with staffers’ credit cards. Known in budgeting circles as using nonrecurring money to fund recurring expenses, that type of financial practice is decried year after year by Republican lawmakers just up the hill in the state Capitol.
Yet Greer, Johnson and members of their “little club” kept spending away, she said.
“If you were in the club, you got your meals picked up, trips and cigars,” she said. “They loved to spend money on expensive cigars. … They ate good all the time: $95 lobsters, $100 steak dinners.”
But there were also $20 to $30 almost-daily meals. “If we had stock in Po’ Boys and the Black Bean, we’d be rich,” she said of two Tallahassee haunts.
It seemed like whatever they saw, they had to buy — albeit with other people’s money — to supplement a high-roller lifestyle that never neglected the little things.
“They couldn’t go to a gas station without buying bottled water and snacks,” she said. “Delmar loved souvenirs. He couldn’t go to an airport without buying them — snow globes, whatever. … The chairman would buy three to four magazines, newspapers, any reading material for every trip.”
Wright said Johnson had the party pay for a transcription service that typed out his voice mail messages and e-mailed them to his party-paid BlackBerry.
Johnson, 31, also hired about six fraternity brothers at $10 an hour, she said.
Greer, 48, surrounded himself with a party-funded entourage. She said he commanded that certain party employees staff personal events, such as his son’s first birthday party in Cocoa Beach, where Republican insiders were encouraged to wear Winnie-the-Pooh birthday caps.
Johnson and other staffers used a mix of personal and party cards to pick up expenses for the birthday celebration, Wright said. When she questioned a staffer who expensed his mileage and meals as “voter outreach,” he told Johnson, who hauled Wright into his office.
“Whether it’s a party or not, whenever you do events with the chairman, it’s work,” she said Johnson told her, miffed that she wondered about his expenses as well. “It’s nobody’s business what I’m expensing.”
Wright, who dealt more frequently with Johnson, said Greer had a similar attitude. But so did members of their “club.”
“I’m tired of people saying we don’t have the money. We have plenty of money,” she said one staffer told her.
Wright said spending went “through the roof” in early 2009, when executive director Jim Rimes left and was replaced by Johnson. Rimes helped mind expenses and in 2008 snuffed a plan of Johnson’s to spend about $12,000 on a replica of the White House desk known as the Resolute.
Later, as executive director, Johnson tried to get the party to pay for oil portraits of himself, Greer and Crist… read more HERE