Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
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Greer plea deal: GOP, Crist, Rubio winners
Posted Feb 11, 2013 by William March
Updated Feb 11, 2013 at 01:40 PM
First-blush reactions to the Jim Greer plea deal: The state Republican Party, former Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Marco Rubio all stand to gain.
“You can say there are no winners, but realistically, politically speaking, there are,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett, who’s politically neutral.
The number-one winner, he said is the state Republican Party. “No one in the Republican Party of Florida was looking forward to a long, drawn-out trial in which their dirty secrets of fundraising and other things might come out,” affecting “a lot of the party leadership and former party leadership,” Jewett said.
Retired University of South Florida political scientist Darryl Paulson, a Republican, agreed.
“There’s probably a tremendous sigh of relief from the state party headquarters that all its dirty linen won’t be washed before the public,” he said.
Paulson and Jewett also agreed that the other big winner is former Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s considering running as a Democrat for governor.
“Who knows what could have come out at a trial that might have caused him a political embarrassment?” said Jewett. “It takes him off the hook.”
The plea deal “frees up” Crist to mount a Democratic primary race, Paulson said.
Crist’s appointment of Greer as party chairman may prove to be “an issue Crist will have to deal with,” he said, “but I don’t think it will be a big issue for him. Someone like Alex Sink may raise it as an issue to question his competence, but he can got through the litany of other successful appointments he made, and acknowledge this was one mistake.”
Greer was Crist’s hand-picked choice for chairman of the state party after Crist took office as governor in 2007. But the legal charges caused a breach between them, as Greer sought to blame his predicament on party leaders including Crist, whose wishes, he contended, he was carrying out in setting up an allegedly illegal fundraising apparatus from which he profited.
And finally, Jewett noted, the plea apparently means Rubio could be spared the embarassment of testimony about his personal use of a Republican Party credit card while he was state House speaker.
Greer had contended that other party leaders besides himself, including Rubio, used the party as a personal piggy bank. Rubio has contended he repaid all expenses he charged to the party credit card and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing. But the issue arose in the 2010 Senate race between Crist and Rubio, and conceivably could arise again.
“It helps anyone who had a party credit card, including Marco Rubio,” Paulson said. “I assume the Republican Party’s strategy will be that Greer has pled guilty, has admitted he was at fault, and we will have nothing more to say about it. The veil of silence will fall pretty quickly over everybody who’s been mentioned.”