Columns

Evidence Cries Out for Probe of Charlie Crist's Judgeship Tradeaways

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: February 24, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist, Spencer Levine, Scott Rothstein

Charlie Crist, Spencer Levine, Scott Rothstein

Mounting evidence -- in fact, puzzle pieces hiding in plain sight -- supports an investigation of Charlie Crist for criminal misconduct while he served as governor of Florida.

Unfortunately, if anybody in authority has the state's former chief executive under a microscope, it's a better-kept secret than the national launch code.

Allegations of quid pro quo arrangements Charlie had with his friends -- in particular convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein -- are more than political buzz or a prisoner's reckless lies.

They're right there. All on record. They're in December 2009 editions of The Miami Herald, the Broward/Palm Beach New Times and the Daily Kos. All of these newspapers were writing about then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist trading judgeships for political contributons.

And they did more than hurl accusations. They connected the dots -- names of appointees, dates and amount of money changing hands. I can't find anyone who can explain to me why the governor didn't come under investigation immediately after those news stories.

No wonder heading into 2010, Charlie wanted out of Tallahassee so badly.

"Quid pro quo" is exactly what Rothstein testified under oath: Campaign contributions in exchange for Charlie naming judges to the bench in Broward County who would rule favorably for his law firm.

Barbara McCarthy

Judge Barbara McCarthy

Earlier this month Dan Gelber, a former Democratic state senator, ran to Charlie's defense. You can't trust a liar and a con man, Gelber said. But Rothstein didn't pull the allegation out of thin air. On Dec. 1, 2009, Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald reported this:

Jay Hurley

Judge Jay Hurley

Rothstein’s law firm gave $52,000 to the state GOP on July 28, 2008, the same day Crist appointed Jay Hurley, an old college chum, to the Broward County Court. A day later Rothstein’s firm donated another $25,000 to the party.

Carlos Rodriguez

Judge Carlos Rodriguez, right

Crist appointed Rothstein to the 4th DCA Judicial Nominating Commission on Aug. 25, 2008, four days before Rothstein contributed $140,000 to the RPOF. Rothstein and his firm gave $100,000 to the RPOF on Jan. 26, 2009. Crist appointed Judges Carlos Rodriguez and Barbara McCarthy two days later.

On Dec. 1, 2009, Maurice Ferré, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, became the first to call for a corruption investigation of Charlie Crist. 

Maurice Ferré

Maurice Ferré

"State campaign finance records show a troubling pattern of large contributions from Mr. Rothstein and immediate and subsequent appointments of judges to the 4th District Court of Appeal," said Ferré, a former six-term mayor of Miami. "Is this pattern a coincidence? Could it indicate real corruption in the judicial nominating process and raise legitimate questions about a possibility of Crist's integrity and his fitness to govern?"

Charlie called the accusation "absurd" and it was dismissed as meaningless election foreplay. Not soon after, it went away, overtaken by scandals within the Jim Greer-led GOP and the arrest of Rothstein.

In November 2009, Bob Norman and Tom Francis of the New Times wrote lavishly about the triangle of influence among Rothstein, Charlie Crist, and former North Broward Hospital District Chief Operating Officer Spencer Levine, whom Crist appointed as an appellate judge in April of that year.

A hospital board vendor told the New Times that in January 2009, he was having a problem with the board and wanted to solve it. He told the newspaper he called not-yet-appointed Sen. George LeMieux, the governor's right-hand man, guru of the hospital district and the man who appointed its board. LeMieux told him to go see Rothstein.

The vendor told the newspaper, "[Rothstein] told me he had Spencer Levine in his pocket and that he was going to get him on the 4th District Court of Appeal. He said they were friends, they socialized, and that Levine would do anything he wanted him to do. He said, 'I'm on the Judicial Nominating Committee, and I got Spencer in my pocket,' quote-unquote."

Coincidence or fiddle? The JNC on which Rothstein sat nominated Levine for the 4th DCA post, and in April, as I mentioned above, Crist appointed him to the lofty judgeship. But the appointment sparked an uneasy undercurrent. Levine given such a position -- it stuck out like spokes on a Roman chariot: He had never been a judge, hadn't practiced law for several years. Caputo identified the Levine-Crist connection in the Herald story: He headed the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit when Charlie was attorney general.

Said reporter Norman, "It was, put simply, very obviously a political appointment."

Norman mentions another interesting connection, too: In 2008 Levine's wife, Judith, won the job as general counsel "at none other than the Broward sheriff's office, where both Crist and Rothstein enjoyed great sway with Sheriff Al Lamberti."

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist to reporters and editors, Jan. 29, 2014: "When I ask people to support me, the only thing they get is a thank-you card."

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, had this comment on the Scott Rothstein/Charlie Crist revelations in the Feb. 6 Washington Times: “Political analysts say Rothstein's testimony is unusual because it is rare that episodes of favor-trading are recounted in such explicit detail," she said.

"There are pretty strong laws on the books, at least at the federal level, when you are making promises in exchange for money. Even at the federal level, to be caught up in violating that law, you have to be very stupid. This notion that [Rothstein] is describing that he had such leverage and influence with Crist, and that there was some kind of agreement for contributions is somewhat troubling."

I'd just like to leave you with this thought: If I can dredge up these connections on Google, so can a U.S. attorney's office that claims corruption in government is "the great scourge of our time." The newspapers have already done the hard work. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it's not their job. Attorney General Pam Bondi's office says it's not theirs either. They're both right -- it isn't.

It's time for the feds to show us they care. Do they, I wonder? In a political time and place where Democat Charlie Crist is Democratic President Barack Obama's man, it's time to put into action the bipartisan spirit this administration talks about with such a sense of ownership and investigate the Scott Rothstein-Charlie Crist connection. Tell the people of Florida what's going on.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.


Comments (30)

Tyler Barrett
8:34PM MAR 16TH 2014
Nan Rich will have my vote. She is the only honest person in the race.
Seth Sklarey
2:17PM MAR 16TH 2014
This is a good reason why the corrupt practice of judicial appointments and merit retention should be abolished.
tom James
9:59AM MAR 15TH 2014
what does Jim Greer have to say about it?
fl
6:28PM FEB 24TH 2014
What about the judges he appointed that Pugliese chose. Pugliese, who gave Crist's gay lover certain lease-rights for payback!
Frank
8:03PM FEB 24TH 2014
Somehow you just knew SSN & Nancy would bring out the nut cases . . . .

Pathetic . . . . .
JOE KREPS
12:24AM MAR 16TH 2014
Whose nuts are you referring too?
Frank
9:53AM MAR 21ST 2014
REALLY! . . . . commenting almost a month later on a comment . . . . what are you afraid of . . . that someone like me will see your comment and respond, showing you up . . . . . . you're quite the man . . . . . label yourself lame and simply . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Fran k
8:09AM FEB 25TH 2014
Liberal idiotspeak!!!
Frank
11:54AM FEB 25TH 2014
Yes, SSN fan club clones can always be trusted in their truthiness . . . great thought out comment, once again . . . sigh, unfortunately this is about all that can be expected for dialogue from the far right . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
JOE KREPS
12:30AM MAR 16TH 2014
Please defend your comments with facts. Name calling is not rude, it reflects poorly on your credibility.
Frank
9:50AM MAR 21ST 2014
Yes, you must be right . . . anyone who uses "Fran k" to comment on my articles must not be a SSN fan club clone in your reality . . . . such a poor attempt (and once again so easily countered with actual facts) . . . . . and waiting almost a month to comment is just so lame and . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
11:01PM FEB 24TH 2014
And here you are. Thank you for not disappointing.
Frank
11:56AM FEB 25TH 2014
Yes, of course you must be right . . . . .but then I'm not the one that says about an elected democracy that "I'm so thankful that millions of us have guns or God knows what unsavory methods you crazies would attempt to force your oppressive and destructive ways on us", am I . . . . . . . maybe wacko is a better descriptive word for the one who made that comment . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
6:35PM FEB 25TH 2014
That is a perfect comment! I hope folks like you take it to heart. Remind me who wrote it and I will commend him. Now the guy who is so obsessive and deranged that he tracks the comments of others for months and months; that is a whacko I would be concerned about.
Frank
8:19PM FEB 25TH 2014
Yes, taking up arms and waging war against your country is so vile that it has a specific term for it directly in the U.S. Constitution . . . . the Founding Fathers called it "Treason" . . . . . . . . and you (or someone signing in as John Paul Jones on SSN) made that statement, not me . . . . . . . . one remembers such a violent threat made against one's duly elected government . . . . . . . . for a long, long time . . . . . and considers anyone making such a threat in today's world a potentially dangerous, delusional, wacko . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
8:20PM FEB 25TH 2014
Actually Frank, the comment precisely states that law abiding American citizens have a right, explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, to protect their God-given liberties from a government that is exceeding its authority. That right is meaningless unless those citizens own firearms. So maybe you want to actually read the Constitution. I know you don't believe it applies anymore. I mean it is so old and was written by rich old white guys right? But ALL of those firearm owning citizens believe it applies, and many of us took an oath to support and defend it from enemies foreign AND domestic. OK, you may now go back to obsessing.
Frank
8:26PM FEB 25TH 2014
Yes, I'm sure in your mind, the Constitution allows you to take up arms against your country to settle political differences, rather than in a court of law . . . . . after all, I'm not the one threatening to use guns against their own government whenever they don't like what that government does . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Michael
10:53AM FEB 24TH 2014
I do not recall Nancy Smith being in a dither about Governor Scotts patent gerrymanadering of his Judical selections for both political reasons and his selections ties to narrow special intersts that the Governor supports and even likely more importantly support the Governor.If I recall correctly this sort of thing was augmented by JEB! as well as subsequnct Republican legislative actions.
fl
6:27PM FEB 24TH 2014
Crist was Jeb's bag man; and henchman as ag for Jeb.
Joel
2:51PM FEB 24TH 2014
Show me where Governor Scott was offering judicial selections for money. Show me the quid pro quo. There is an inate stupidity about a state governor who didn't recognize he was breaking the public trust let alone the law. We are fortunate Sunshine State News is speaking up for us.
Frank
4:22PM FEB 24TH 2014
Yeah, he didn't need to . . . . he'd already made a fortune from the company he headed that was involved in Medicare fraud, which pled guilty to 14 felonies and agreed to over $600 million in fines . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Joel
5:08PM FEB 24TH 2014
Ohhhh, so it's okay for Charlie Crist to sell judgeships because he needed the money? As consolation because he didn't make a fortune from the company etc. etc. etc.? Better watch out, Frank, with a reach like that you're going to develop back trouble.
Frank
8:00PM FEB 24TH 2014
You just FAILED Logic 101 . . . . and Retort 001 . . . . again . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Fran k
8:08AM FEB 25TH 2014
Liberal idiotspeak!!!
Frank
12:28PM FEB 25TH 2014
Oh look, the SSN fan club intelligent right wing commentator shows he actually knows how to write at least two words . . . . again! . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Karen Bailey
9:52AM FEB 24TH 2014
Floridians need to be made aware of the vacancies coming up on its Supreme Court. There is a chance if Crist is elected Governor, the entire Supreme Court could be a Crist-appointed Supreme Court. Pot will bring people to the polls but Florida will have to live with those appointments longer than we have to live with our next governor.
Martin Resident
9:11AM FEB 24TH 2014
Thank you, once again, Nancy Smith. These are the facts Americans need to know. Keep up the great work!
Fran k
9:03AM FEB 24TH 2014
This is why we should not re-elect anyone. Power corrupts and term limits keeps this power in check.

Bill Nelson is the consumate liberal whackjob. God help us if he gets elected.
RC
7:53AM FEB 24TH 2014
This is stupid if the GOP is pushing this. If it blows up, Bill Nelson will replace Crist and that would be a disaster for the GOP>
JOE KREPS
7:14PM FEB 24TH 2014
This will be an October surprise if he wins the Democratic Primary.

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