Mexican-born Raoul Lowery Contreras' latest self-published kindle book is hardly what you would call a three-dimensional, "fair and balanced" profile of Charlie Crist.
Yet, factually speaking, it's hard to find a hair out of place in "Chain Gang Charlie: The Charlie Crist Unauthorized Political Story," available today for $7.99 on Amazon.com.
The facts Contreras presents may have been gathered largely through tunnel vision. And they may not break a lot of new ground. But the book is a presentation of information sealed in records, files and stories that paints a frightening picture of a man who has found escaping scrutiny easier the higher he's risen.
"Chain Gang Charlie" is the work of an author clearly frustrated. "I was only planning to write an op-ed about Crist. Then I came across more and more and more information about this guy."
Contreras, 73 -- keen political observer, author of eight books, weekly op-ed writer for The Hill and frequent contributor to FoxNewsLatino.com and JWR.com and a Hispanic commentator for several California TV stations-- says he finds it "appalling" that Crist could "crawl through so much muck" over 20 years in public office and emerge as the Florida Democratic Party's candidate for governor -- the FDP being his third political home in two years.
"I've been around politics for a lot of years," Contreras told Sunshine State News in a telephone interview Friday. "I know shady deals when I see them. For a long time Charlie has been right in the middle of the worst kind. ... Shouldn't Charlie Crist be in jail?"
Contreras said he knew and supported Republican California Congressman Duke Cunningham, until he became aware of the unsavory deals Cunningham was involved in. "He was a veteran like me. I liked him for a long time," explained Contreras. "It really shocked me when heresigned from the House in 2005, after pleading guilty to accepting something like $2.4 million in bribes and cheating on his income tax. It taught me how to look at all politicians, even the ones I like."
At 147 pages -- despite some probably inadvertent stream of consciousness passages and the lack of an editor on the finished product -- "Chain Gang Charlie" is not a taxing read. The book is organized into three parts. The first, "Ethics, Cash and Corruption," includes seven chapters:
- What Can You Get for $10,000
- With Friends like These
- Keeping Count of Cons
- Professional Back-Scratcher -- I Give You Money, You Give Me Judges
- Charlies Not In Charge But John Morgan Is
- Flying the Friendly Skies Just Not Paying To Do It
- Chain Saw Charlie Ruins the Everglades.
The second is the smallest part, called "Republican, Independent, Democrat." It includes these two parts:
- The Immaculate Conversion
- Youre A Party Man, Charlie Crist.
The third and last part, "A Flip-Flopper Named Charlie Crist," is a kind of grab-bag of Crist's shifting-issues problem in nine chapters:
- Charlies Choice: Crists Indeterminate Position on Abortion
- Dreamers Need Not Apply: Crist on In-State Tuition
- Charlies Prison Problem
- Charlies New Pals Fidel, Raul: Ending the Cuban Embargo, Not!
- Tuesdays with Barry: Charlies Romance with Barack Obama
- You Cant Have It Both Ways: The Debate on Debates
- If You Cant Beat Them Sue Them
- Follow The Money
- The Great Pumpkin: Charlies Autobiography.
Some of Contreras' least known stories include Crist's penchant for gifting his college chums from the old Florida State days. One of them was Jay Burmer, to whom he gave a job with his campaign when he was running for attorney general; then he appointed Burmer director of fraud investigations after he was elected, despite less than stellar qualifications. Burmer went on to work for the Republican Party of Florida -- paid$351,155.88 for consulting communications.
Burmer was quickly paid off in 2010, after which he disappeared from the political scene until recently -- when he turned up bundling for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate again.
Crist also received between $5,000 and $10,500 in campaign money from Ponzi schemer Lou Pearlman, and used Pearlmans sky boxes at sporting and concert events. Soon after, Crist's AG office quashed an active investigation of a major Pearlman criminal enterprise, firing the cases chief investigator -- basically allowing the suspect to escape.
It's an intricate story told in Contreras' book -- ending in Pearlman fleeing the country, getting caught, pleading guilty to conspiracy and money laundering, among other charges. He's not expected to be released from federal prison until 2029.
Contreras said the part of the book he considers most important is the one dealing with the book's title -- "Chain Gang Charlie."
"Crist really did use the suffering of predominantly black men to get ahead, to futher his own career," he said. "It pains me today to think about those men chained together in leg irons in the hot sun -- and Charlie wanted even more barbaric chaining, five men on one chain. Thank God he didn't get his own way.
"Today he needs the black vote and rushes to hug black people in the crowd. I believe African-Americans who are old enough to remember will see right through him."
Contreras spends a lot of time, too, on Crist's "bonehead" decision to recognize Cuba, end the embargo and pay the country a visit personally. Following a ruckus with the Miami Cuban community, he walked that decision back. "I know many Cuban-Americans about the same age as I am," said the author. "There's no way they could vote for Charlie, especially after that."
Among Contreras' sources listed in the appendix are Sunshine State News, The Miami Herald, SaintPetersBlog, Politico.com, the Tampa Bay Times and The New York Times.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter; @NancyLBSmith