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Politics

Backroom Briefing: Jim Greer Goes Gonzo

June 11, 2014 - 6:00pm

For months, many in the Tallahassee political and media circles have waited to see just what would be in the book chronicling the fall of disgraced former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.

But when "The Chairman: The Rise and Betrayal of Jim Greer," by Peter Golenbock, came out this week, there was a question that faced the media and perhaps some campaigns: What do we do with this?

After all, the book is written largely from the perspective of a felon who pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering last year. Like many tell-alls, it is the story of a disgruntled former employee with axes to grind against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist -- who's now running as a Democrat to get his old job back -- and the RPOF.

It's filled with salacious tidbits about both. Prominent party officials are caught in unguarded and sometimes vulgar moments. Greer says the party had become a money-laundering operation."

Crist is portrayed as a vacillating persona, agreeing to endorse former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, then deciding to stay neutral, then going with U.S. Sen. John McCain. Crist gravitates toward naming former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney to fill an unexpired Senate term, then has Greer all but offer the job to Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, then gives it to former Crist aide George LeMieux.

And the book zeroes in on the relationship between Crist and his wife, Carole, whom Greer comes to see as "a female Rasputin." Several of Crist's allies were concerned about Carole when the governor began dating her, Greer says, and she's blamed for engineering the exit of Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac, among other actions.

"Carole's influence was always lurking in the background, Greer saw; Crist was turning into a Democrat," the book says.

But there are also obvious issues about the book beyond Greer's own credibility. It's rife with inaccuracies, misspelled names and confused timelines.

It asserts of Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and former Attorney General Bill McCollum: "Both Thrasher and McCollum were members of the tea party faction of the Republican Party." Thrasher has been involved in the GOP establishment for decades, and McCollum's defeat at the hands of Rick Scott in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary was fueled by tea party support for Scott.

Given that, most observers have treated the book warily. Those news organizations that have covered it have stayed away from the most explosive allegations. (This account has done the same.)

And both the Crist campaign and the RPOF have stayed away from promoting any of the charges in the book, in part because of Greer's reputation and in part because the manuscript cuts both ways.

THE EXPRESS LANE BACK TO TALLAHASSEE:

Election Day is little more than a week away for dozens of House and Senate incumbents.

With qualifying set to start Monday and end at noon next Friday, 49 legislative incumbents have not drawn opponents, according to the state Division of Elections website. Another two had drawn opposition only from write-in candidates -- an almost sure sign of re-election.

The list of unopposed lawmakers doesn't appear to show any pattern. Other than, of course, the embedded powers of incumbency and, in many cases, the ability to raise loads of campaign cash. But the list includes Republicans, Democrats, freshman lawmakers and well-known veterans.

It includes the powerful -- think future House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes -- and many, uh, more-anonymous lawmakers. Also, it includes House and Senate members who represent districts from Monticello to Hialeah and from Fernandina Beach to Naples.


AN ORDER OF WINGS AND A SIDE OF DIFFERENTIAL TUITION:

Gov. Rick Scott has taken a victory lap this week to celebrate signing a bill that will help hold down college and university costs, a signature issue in his re-election bid.

But the locations of his campaign stops have not exactly delivered a message about academia. They included a Beef 'O' Brady's sports pub in Estero, the glitzy Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and an American Legion Post in Pensacola.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Marco Rubio's take on Cantor loss: Immigration reform? Who said anything about immigration reform? Certainly not me." -- Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell (@Scott_Maxwell) on U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's surprise drubbing by a tea party-backed candidate in Virginia.

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