Prison Visit: The Boys in Charlie's Band

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: June 9, 2014 3:55 AM
Jailhouse Brigade

You've got to love the Democrats' tone-deaf hypocrisy. Neither the Party nor the media can hear the felonious, money-honey band that helped rock Charlie Crist to the top of the charts in his last gubernatorial election. But they sure did pick up on the squeaky little voice of James Batmasian singing "Havin' a Party."

In one of his campaign emails, Democrats' spokesman Joshua Karp called Batmasian, who had just sent out invitations to a Gov. Rick Scott fundraising party, "an ex-felon tax cheat" -- "Birds of a feather ... Rick Scott to fundraise with ex-felon tax cheat" is what Karp said.

It seems in 2008, lawyer Batmasian pleaded guilty to failing to collect and pay $253,000 in federal withholding taxes at his Boca Raton investment company. So he spent eight months in prison, paid a $30,000 fine and had his Florida law license suspended.

I Beg to Differ

Certainly somebody from Scott's campaign should have checked Batmasian out -- just as Marc Caputo wrote in Sunday's Miami Herald. Scott was left to do the only thing he could at that point. Within three hours of liberal website Mother Jones outing Batmasian, Scott cancelled the fundraiser.

Amazing, though, don't you think?

Amazing that Karp & Co. at Democratic headquarters -- the whole bunch of them managing Charlie Crist's campaign -- managed to find James Batmasian, yet have a mental block the size of New Jersey when it comes to their own candidate's felonious friends (FF's).

Three things about Charlie's FF's you should know: 1) All of them were friends in Charlie's mind, real ones, bro types not mere acquaintances. 2) All but one of them had something to do with fundraising for Charlie that got them convicted. And 3) the biggest mind-blower ... there are so freaking many of them. Charlie's slammer pals could make a whole basketball team plus a sub on the bench. Ask yourself, how many people do you know serving time behind bars anywhere? How many people do you know even remotely who have six -- count 'em, six -- friends in a federal slammer (OK, two are waiting to begin serving their time), five because of laws they broke raising money for you?

If that doesn't help Karp and the Dems unblock, maybe a prison visit will.

Let's step inside those cold, gray walls. Allow me to introduce some real "birds of a feather" -- the boys in Charlie's band:

Jim Greer, Scott Rothstein and Alan Mendelsohn

Three from Charlie's band, from left: Jim Greer, Scott Rothstein, Alan Mendelsohn

-- Scott Rothstein. Disbarred lawyer, former managing shareholder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm. He was accused of funding his philanthropy, political contributions, law firm salaries, and an extravagant lifestyle with a massive $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. Before the scheme imploded in 2009, Rothstein and Charlie Crist were in regular and close contact, including the birthday party Rothstein gave for the governor, gifting him with $52,000 -- $1,000 for every candle he blew out. Rothstein was sentenced to 50 years in 2010 and moved from the Federal Detention Center in Miami to an undisclosed location. His inmate number has been removed from the federal prisoner-locater Web page. In every deposition he has given -- including one earlier this year -- he has consistently said he and Charlie had a "quid pro quo arrangement" -- judgeships for favors and donations.

-- Jim Greer. Charlie Crist's close friend and hand-picked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 2006 to 2010. Greer was facing a possible 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft -- including a scheme to take $100,000 from the party for his personal expenses through a fundraising company he created, Victory Strategies LLC. While much evidence supported Greer's claim that Charlie and other top party and political leaders had known of his fundraising contract, Greer chose to end the trial and surprised many by pleading guilty in 2013. His guilty plea saved the Republican Party and many top political leaders -- inadvertently Charlie -- the embarrassment of a trial. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering charges on Feb. 11, 2013, and was sentenced March 27, 2013, to 18 months in prison, in which he would serve 15 of them. Greer said "he (took the guilty plea) for his wife Lisa and five kids and to put the matter behind him."

-- Alan Mendelsohn. Former Hollywood ophthalmologist, GOP fundraiser, lobbyist and adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist -- was sentenced to four years in prison in 2011 after he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge alleging he was scheming to bilk the U.S. government -- trying to hide $82,000 in political donations. At his peak, Mendelsohn directed hundreds of thousands of dollars into political campaigns. Charlie put him on his gubernatorial transition team in 2006 and he was chief fundraiser for the Florida Medical Association's political action committee.


Greg Eagle, Stu Rosenfeldt, Russell Adler

Three more from Charlie's band: Greg Eagle, Stu Rosenfeldt, Russell Adler

-- Greg Eagle. The Lee County real estate broker, 63, father of Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, started serving a six-year prison sentence Feb. 8 after pleading guilty to six counts of bank fraud for tricking the First National Bank of Pennsylvania into loaning him $17 million. In 2006, Eagle put $1 million into a third-party political group, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Florida, before the September primary. The money later was transferred to another group that helped Crist secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Basically, the story boils down to this: To get himself out of a $19 million hole, Greg mortgaged trust property without the knowledge of the other beneficiaries. He was so much more than a Charlie Crist donor. He and the former governor were tight, especially while Charlie was gunning for the governor's office. Charlie would sometimes stay at Greg's Useppa Island home, and he even hired son Dane to serve as his travel aide.

-- Russell Adler. Another Charlie Crist friend and Scott Rothstein former law partner filed a guilty plea on March 7. Prosecutors said Adler funneled $283,000 in donations to Crist, as well as to the campaigns of former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin. Prosecutors have painted a picture of the law firm seeking to buy influence with the McCain campaign and the U.S. Senate campaign of Crist, through bundling employee donations -- then unlawfully reimbursing those employees. Adler faces a maximum five years in prison at a June 27 sentencing hearing.

-- Stu Rosenfeldt. Crist buddy and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein’s second-in-command at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm was charged in May 2014 by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to commit campaign fraud, bank fraud, and violate human rights. He stands accused of conspiring with Rothstein to have two Broward sheriff's office deputies run a prostitute out of town after her boyfriend threatened to expose the married Rosenfeldt's sexual relationship with her. Also part of the conspiracy was an allegation of bank fraud involving more than $10 million in false checks and a loss of nearly half a million dollars by two area banks. The government also alleges that Rosenfeldt committed campaign finance fraud by making more than $150,000 in contributions to the campaigns of John McCain and Charlie Crist that were illegally reimbursed by Rothstein. Rosenfeldt is cooperating with the government and is expected to plead guilty to the single campaign conspiracy charge for which he faces a maximum of five years in prison.

I have Democrats telling me, well, none of this is our problem, Charlie was a Republican when he attracted so many friends with dirty hands. True, but he's not anymore. Which makes it a little difficult for the Dems to claim the holy ground now. When they accepted Charlie as their headliner, they consented to the whole package, lock, stock and barrel full of felonious friends.

The Florida Democratic Party needs to clean its ears out. Unblock fast. Greer has a book scheduled to come out before the election. Who knows, before all this is over, Charlie's Jailhouse Brigade Band could grow into an orchestra.

Kind of puts Batmasian's fundraiser in perspective, don't you think?

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

Comments (20)

Ronda Hopes
11:36AM OCT 8TH 2014
You forgot the most important ones!
Really, lets talk Wellcare Heathcare company. That owners all were convicted and went to jail IN LARGEST MEDICARE FRAUD CASE in Florida 6 MONTHS after Charlie Crist took office.! It just happens to be that TODD FARHA- (Chairman, Chief Executive and President of WELLCARE conducted interviews for Crist Transition team to pick no other than Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary One most important jobs Governor can pick for Florida Taxes payers. Guess who they picked? Dr. Andrew Agwunobi. Agwunobi a was WELLCARE BOARD MEMNBER, Agwunobi received stock from Wellcare, which he sold for more than $1-million. Bad enough he got paid to never show up for the job!(Tallahassee) Guess who was on Crist Transition Team? Ruben King-Shaw Jr. another Wellcare Borad member as well!
Joe Hanny
10:41AM JUN 10TH 2014
Dear Nancy,

Is there a reason you left out Steve Lippman?

Was he a contributor? Admittedly so.

He could have stopped this crime with his knowledge.

How about full disclosure? I think this deserves a follow up with the missing criminal.
Nancy Smith
1:32PM JUN 10TH 2014
Sorry! I admit, I don't know Steve Lippman. At least, I didn't until you pointed him out to me.
Joe Hanny
6:33PM JUN 13TH 2014
He was a partner of RRA law firm.

Steven Lippman was convicted in federal court, and went to jail for his part in this crime. He was disbarred from the Florida bar and is a major part of this story. In fact, this scheme would have ended a lot sooner had he reported what he knew to the authorities.

Instead, he was part of the crew that enjoyed a rock-and-roll style life, and the monies that Rothstein stole from innocent victims.

As a journalist, I would trust that you would report, and disclose, all "The Boys in Charlie's Band".

This article is missing an important part that the public should know.
Joe Snodgrass
1:51AM JUN 10TH 2014
The story of two gubernatorial candidates: Rick Scott Republican incumbent, with shady background of Medicare fraud and Charlie Crist now Democrat, with shady background of friends in low places for felonious deeds. But the FDP wants to paint the picture that people like myself and other former Senator Nan Rich supporters are the ones dividing the party and will be to blame if Scott gets reelected. This would truly be funny if the future of Florida was not at stake. Step aside for Charlie, the article in TFS, stating Senator Rich should withdraw because she has no chance of winning. Senator Rich is now the only true qualified candidate in the race which has no ties to dirty money and people in low places. So go ahead and point the finger of blame toward me and other like minded Nan Rich supporters, just remember you have three fingers pointing back at yourself... Nan WHO? You have till August 26, 2014 to wake up from this nightmare or have no one but yourselves to blame for the next four years. Nan Rich for Governor, the only honest choice to true leadership.
W.E."Ted" Guy, Jr.
1:02AM JUN 10TH 2014
So, Nancy, I see you don't like Crist very much. But I do, because he sticks up for Everglades and Estuaries restoration, which Scott refuses to do.
4:27PM JUN 9TH 2014
In the 1920’s Baron Edmund de Rothschild founded the Palestine Economics Commission, while Kuhn Loeb’s Manhattan offices helped Rothschild form a network to smuggle weapons to Zionist death squads bent on seizing Palestinian lands. General Julius Klein oversaw the operation and headed the US Army Counterintelligence Corps, which later produced Henry Kissinger. Klein diverted Marshall Plan aid to Europe to Zionist terror cells in Palestine after WWII, channeling the funds through the Sonneborn Institute, which was controlled by Baltimore chemical magnate Rudolph Sonneborn. His wife Dorothy Schiff is related to the Warburgs.

The Kuhn Loebs came to Manhattan with the Warburgs. At the same time the Bronfmans came to Canada as part of the Moses Montefiore Jewish Colonization Committee. The Montefiores have carried out the dirty work of Genoese nobility since the 13th Century. The di Spadaforas served that function for the Italian House of Savoy, which was bankrolled by the Israel Moses Seif family for which Israel is named. Lord Harold Sebag Montefiore is current head of the Jerusalem Foundation, the Zionist wing of the Knights of St. John’s Jerusalem.

The Bronfmans (the name means “liquorman” in Yiddish) tied up with Arnold Rothstein, a product of the Rothschild’s dry goods empire, to found organized crime in New York City. Rothstein was succeeded by Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Robert Vesco and Santos Trafficante, Sr.; then Santos Trafficante, Jr. [Born in Tampa, Florida] The Bronfmans are intermarried with the Rothschilds, Loebs and Lamberts. The year 1917 also saw the 16th Amendment added to the US Constitution, levying a national income tax, though it was ratified by only two of the required 36 states. The IRS is a private corporation registered in Delaware. Four years earlier the Rockefeller Foundation was launched, to shield family wealth from the new income tax provisions, while steering public opinion through social engineering. One of its tentacles was the General Education Board.

The Exiled Mobster Miguel Recarey- With Jeb Bush's help in overcoming certain Medicare regulations, Cuban businessman and Bush business partner Miguel Recarey was able to amass a fortune in a very short time.

In exchange, he provided free and no-questions medical care to Nicaraguan right wing rebels, otherwise known as Contras. When the scheme collapsed, Bush and high level Bush administration officials successfully helped Recarey avoid prosecution and even had the kindness to give him a bonus for his services in the form of a hefty IRS check.

But Bush and company were not the only people involved in Recarey Medicare fraud. If he had friends in high places, Recarey also has important contact in the lower realms too.

Back in 1988, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sydney P. Freedberg of the Wall Street Journal, wrote of Miguel Recarey’s longstanding connection with Florida underworld boss Santo Traffincante, Jr. It was alleged by Miguel Recarey's associates that the medical company IMC [International Medical Centers] was, in fact, financed by the Miami mafia don Trafficante.

Born in Tampa, Florida, on 15th November, 1914, Trafficante took over the gambling business when his father died of stomach cancer in August, 1954. He had been sent to manage operations in Havana and, working with the dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, Santo was able to make a name for himself. All of that came to an abrupt end, when the Marxist rebels took over the country and threw the corrupt regime and all of its cronies out of the country in January, 1959.

Note: Jeb Bush appointed Batista’s grandson Raoul Cantero III to the Florida Supreme Court. He resigned and has recently been representing the Fl Legislature in their redistricting suit defense. Some researchers suspect our new appointed Lieutenant Governor Coral Gables resident Carlos Lopez-Cantera (Like Cantero III born in Spain of Cuban parents) is also Batista related!

For Trafficante, it spelled disaster. In fact the man once considered the most powerful mafioso in Batista-era Cuba actually spent time in prison before being deported to the United States. (Admittedly, he never served time in any American prison.)

These disgruntled and determined gangsters were an attractive asset to the CIA. They had all the contacts, the informers and the muscle that it took to return the island to American control.

By 1987 their Medicare Fraud scheme was coming apart at the seams thanks to a “disgruntled federal employee” Jeb Bush and friends were able to help Miguel Recarey flee the USA under a federal indictment for which he remains a fugitive to this day. At the time Recarey with the help of Jeb Bush had effectively committed the biggest Medicare Fraud in US history.

In 1987 as Bush business partner Miguel Recarey was forced to abandon leadership of the [filtered word] that laid the golden egg (their Medicare Fraud empire) Jeb Bush enlisted the help of Dallas, Texas Bush family connected lawyer Richard (Rick) Lynn Scott (of Johnson & Swanson) and Richard Rainwater to pick up the pieces of their schemes and soon like Miguel Recarey before them “they were all able to amass a fortune in a very short time.”

According to corporate records Rick Scott and Richard Rainwater begin picking up the pieces of IMC under various corporate names and eventually consolidated most of them into Columbia/ HCA.

By 1997 once again the walls came tumbling down. Rick Scott had taken the fifth 75 times in order to keep from becoming a witness against not only himself but Jeb Bush and his other secret partners as well.

Everyone knows the rest of this story. Rick Scott was forced to leave Columbia / HCA with millions of get away money just like Jeb Bush and friends arranged for their former partner in crime Miguel Recarey. And where did all this criminal activity begin? With funding by the former Florida Godfather Santos Trafficante, Jr. And you people are concerned that CharLIE Crist was friends with Scott Rothstein and maybe sold a few judgeships? Rothstein himself spoke of his Thursday night meetings with the mob.

And you can call CharLIE Crist any name you want too, but the truth remains just last month it was Rick Scott who was invited to the home of Mel Sembler for a fund “fun raiser” and not CharLIE this time. Now it’s Rick Scott who has all the friends in all the right places!

God help the good honest people of the state of Florida and the USA from these organized criminals.
4:02PM JUN 9TH 2014
Good story and one dynamite cartoon! Can't believe how much Rosenfeldt looks like Rosenfeldt. Your cartoonist captured the old perv to a tee.
Gale Engelke
1:05AM JUN 10TH 2014
Thanks for the compliment Joel.
The Cartoonist
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:25PM JUN 9TH 2014
Cash that rings the till

On March 30, 2010, Elva McCaig, a nurse employed at the Florida Department of Corrections' (FDOC) Santa Rosa Correctional Institute, and treasurer of Nurses Behind the Gate, a prison nurse advocacy group, wrote a letter addressed to both United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Thomas Kirwin and State Attorney for Florida's Second Judicial District Willie Meggs.

In essence, the letter laid out McCaig's concerns that the development of Blackwater CF was yet another legislatively-mandated handout to yet another prominent Florida Republican Party contributor, Geo Group. Geo consistently reports annual revenue in excess of one billion dollars -- all of which it earns through state, county and federal contracts for the detention of both criminal offenders and immigrant detainees.

And indeed, Geo is a top Florida Republican Party contributor; through two political action committees (PACs), Florida Geo Group, Inc. PAC and Geo Group, Inc. PAC, the corporation gave $85,000 to the Republican Party of Florida from 2006 through 2009, along with tens of thousands of dollars in additional contributions to other state Republican Party PACs and campaigns of individual Republican candidates.

It is also worth noting that from 2005 through 2010, Geo, through its PACs, dispensed an additional $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, an additional $32,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and an additional $10,000 over 2009 and 2010 directly to the Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate PAC.

Geo's PAC spending, however, is not the limit of their appreciation shown to Rubio.
On September 13, 2010, several top Geo corporate executives, along with Geo lobbyists and subcontractors, gave a total of $33,500 in individual contributions to the Florida Victory Committee, a PAC created for the benefit of three other PACS: Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Party of Florida.
All-in-all, the Florida Victory Committee received $113,500 -- all on September 13, 2010 -- during its most active period (August 20 through September 30, 2010). Of this amount, $51,735.90 was disbursed to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which, in turn, contributed an amazing $2,509,644 to Rubio's campaign throughout the 2010 election cycle), $13,305 was disbursed to the Republican Party of Florida, and $31,458.15 was disbursed to the Rubio PAC.
In addition, Geo Chief Executive Officer and founder George Zoley gave Rubio a further $4,800 in personal contributions over the course of 2009 and 2010 -- half of which Zoley gave to the Rubio campaign on September 13, 2010 -- putting his own personal disbursements to the Rubio campaign for that single day at $7,400.

It is worth noting that Geo was the most generous single-interest/corporate donor to contribute to the Florida Victory Committee during this period. It is also worth noting that, of the $33,500 contributed by Geo and its affiliates to this particular PAC, $10,000 came directly from Guy and Neel White, owners and chief executive officers of White Construction Company, the Geo subcontractor awarded the $114 million contract for the construction of Blackwater CF.

The McCaig letter went on to lay out points of the legislative history and perceived "backroom transactions" behind the development of Blackwater CF, as well as the odd "relationships and conflicts" in the proximity of both Rubio's economic consultant, Donna Arduin, and former Senate President Jeff Atwater's Chief of Staff Robert "Budd" Kneip to lawmakers working to push the development of Blackwater CF.
Both Arduin and Kneip have deep ties to the Geo Group and its parent, Wackenhut Corporation.

Without going into too much detail on the claims and concerns outlined in the McCaig letter (for all the factual background provided in the letter, it contained a number of factual errors -- including erroneous claims that Xe Services, LLC/Blackwater USA were involved in the deal), the point was essentially that budgetary provisos which called for $110 million to be appropriated as a giveaway to the Geo Group were inserted into the state budget under very questionable circumstances.

Federal Investigators on the Trail

In any event, it seems the letter contained enough salient, solid information that it sparked the interest of federal investigators.
According to multiple sources in the area, federal investigators began making house calls in and around Santa Rosa County (home of Blackwater CF), and around the capital buildings of Tallahassee, during the summer of 2010, asking questions about the origins of Blackwater.
FBI spokesman Special Agent Jeff Westcott declined to either confirm or deny the reports of the bureau's interest in Blackwater.

The Origins of Blackwater in the Florida House of Representatives

In November 2006, Donna Arduin, president of Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics (ALME, incorporated in Florida, February, 2005), as well as of Arduin Associates, Inc. (incorporated in Florida, January, 2005), was hired as an economic consultant by former Florida House Speaker Allen Bense (R-Panama City) for work on the 2007-2008 House General Appropriations Bill under incoming Speaker Marco Rubio. (Bense signed this contract in his last days as speaker, while Rubio was speaker-designate). The contract commenced December 1, 2006, and expired in May, 2007, with the finalization of the appropriations bill. Under this contract Arduin's rate of pay was $10,000 per month.

Arduin was again contracted in September 2007, as an economic consultant for work on the 2008-2009 House General Appropriations Bill under Speaker Rubio. The contract again ran through May of the following year, terminating with the finalization of the appropriations bill. Her rate of pay was again $10,000 per month.

At the time of Arduin's initial contract under Rubio, as well as during her work over the course of 2006 on theFlorida Property Tax Reform Committee, she was also a compensated trustee of Correctional Properties Trust(AKA CentaCore Properties Trust, CPT), a real estate investment trust (REIT) established by WackenhutCorrections in 1998.
Wackenhut Corrections, a subsidiary of Wackenhut Corporation, spun off as a separate entity (Geo Group) following the purchase of Wackenhut by United Kingdom-based Group 4 Falck (currently called "G4S") in 2003.
It is worth noting that Arduin's ALME partners, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, were both economic advisors to President Ronald Reagan, Moore serving on Reagan's Commission on Privatization, which established policy resulting in the rebirth of the American private prison industry in the 1980s. Additionally, both Laffer and Moore are members of the American Legislative Exchange's (ALEC) "board of scholars." Both Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centers) are corporations with a history of involvement in ALEC.

On February 19, 2008, Geo Group Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Calabrese, along with Geo Senior Vice President of North American Operations John Hurley, Geo Vice President of Business Development Cloid Shuler, and Geo lobbyist Damon Smith, delivered a presentation before the Florida Senate Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations.

The presentation was straightforward, with two primary objectives: 1.) Geo would take on more prisoners and would discount per diem rates of incarceration of state prisoners in exchange for longer contracts with the state, and 2.) Geo sought appropriations for two expansions to one of their existing private facilities, Graceville CF, in the form of one 384-bed expansion, coupled with the development of a 1,500-bed "special needs annex" (for the "chronically mentally ill") to the facility.

To illustrate the scope of this proposal, the Geo executives were essentially seeking to sell the Florida Legislature on an expansion of the existing Graceville CF (which contained 1,884 "beds" at that time) by up to 1,884 additional beds. In exchange for this concession -- as well as increased contract lengths at other existing facilities -- Geo would offer the state a "discounted rate."

Ray's Trip to Boca

Then-House Policy and Budget Chief Ray Sansom did not seem like a man happy in his work. Reports filed with the Florida House of Representatives for travel and other expense reimbursement by Sansom during this period are marked at the outset of each legislative session with the foreboding words, "session subsistence begins," scrawled in Sansom's hand over travel reports detailing his commutes from Destin to Tallahassee. A Florida state representative doesn't make much -- less than $30,000 per year. As such, Sansom filed meticulous reports seeking reimbursement for travel, copier toner and other office expenses.
One such report shows Sansom embarking, on March 27, 2008, for a rare trip out of his district in the Florida Panhandle (or outside of the capital) to Boca Raton, nearly 400 miles away at the southern tip of Florida, for "personal business." Boca Raton is home to Geo Group's corporate headquarters.

It should be noted that this single trip to Boca Raton is the only one of its kind found on travel reimbursement forms filed by Sansom (for himself or his staff) from 2007 to his resignation in February, 2010.

While it is unclear what business Sansom had in Boca Raton (Neither Sansom, nor any representative of Geo Group responded to requests for comment), it is clear that the lawmaker returned to Tallahassee and inserted aproviso in the initial draft of the 2008-2009 House General Appropriations Bill (filed with Policy and Budget Committee on April 4, 2008) which called for "$110,000,000 in non-recurring general revenue... for the planning, design, permitting, equipping and construction of a state-owned, privately operated 2,000 bed correctional institution... for the housing of 2,000 medium and close custody inmates as a stand-alone annex to the Graceville Correctional Facility in Graceville, Florida."
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:22PM JUN 9TH 2014
"Project Justice:" Sansom, Gaetz and TEAM Santa Rosa

On April 7, 2008, following the insertion of this proviso -- which was never run by any committee for approval -- Representative Curtis Richardson (D-Tallahassee) amended the budget to strike the proviso, as it was obviously a legislatively-mandated giveaway to Geo Group.
Sansom responded on April 8, 2008 with a revised proviso stripped of all Graceville-specific language. In all other respects the new proviso was identical in that it called for $110 million for a new 2,000-bed private prison to be constructed somewhere in the state.

On June 11, 2008, the budget was approved by then-Governor Charlie Crist.

On July 15, 2008, the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) issued an "Invitation to Negotiate" (ITN) for the development of the proposed private prison. Responses to the ITN were due by September 9, 2008.

Interestingly, although no binding agreement had been reached between Geo Group and DMS, on November 26, 2008, Geo Group purchased 126 acres of land outside of Milton, Santa Rosa County, for $2.65 million -- 59 acres of which Geo would go on to resell to the state of Florida through the Florida Correctional Finance Corporation (FCFC, an instrumentality of DMS) for $1.6 million on March 24, 2009, as the site of what would become Blackwater CF -- after being awarded the development contract by DMS on March 18, 2009.

It is worth noting that, while DMS had issued a "notice of intent" to award the development contract to Geo on October 21, 2008, that Geo had apparently selected the prospective Blackwater acreage prior to the issuance of the July 15, 2008 ITN.

According to documents submitted to DMS as part of Geo's ITN response, the corporation had already assessed the feasibility of using the selected land as early as July 7, 2008. The following month, the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution to provide $1.8 million in funding for additional infrastructure to feed the proposed facility.
Under the terms of the design/build agreement entered into between DMS and Geo, the corporation was awarded $115,364,828 in state project financing, along with another $2,081,984 for payment to Georgia-based "program manager" Carter Goble Lee.
Following the contract award to Geo, construction began on the facility -- slated for completion in July, 2010.

Further exacerbating the appearance that the Blackwater deal had been sewn up long before the 2008-2009 General Appropriations Bill had been passed -- let alone the issuance of the DMS ITN -- according to documents released by TEAM Santa Rosa, the economic development arm of Santa Rosa County, Sansom and Senator Don Gaetz (R-Destin) had been discussing the idea of a new prison as a means of economic development (code name "Project Justice") with TEAM members as early as February of 2008. Santa Rosa County was partially represented by both Sansom and Gaetz.
Strangely, Arduin denies that she ever worked with Sansom or his Policy and Budget Committee staff during the formation of the 2008-2009 budget, insisting that she only worked with Rubio.
Work invoices filed by Arduin pursuant to the terms of her September 2007 through May 2008 contract with the House tell a different story.
"ALME provided consulting services to the House as directed by the Speaker relating to property tax reform, economic development and budget issues," reads the invoice for April 2008. "Those services included participating in meetings, planning sessions and conferences with Legislators and staff of the Speaker's Office and Policy and Budget Committee on economic development initiatives, spending reductions and policy development for the 2008 Florida Legislative session... ALME continues to provide ongoing economic and policy advice to the staff of the Speaker's Office and Policy and Budget Committee on Florida's budget and economy."

Or, as stated by the "scope of services" section of Arduin's contract with the House: "services include advisory services to the House, as directed by the Speaker of the House, to the Policy and Budget Committee, as directed by the Chairman of the Committee (Sansom), or as directed by the Chief of Staff."
Nevertheless, public records requests submitted to the Florida House of Representatives for reports authored or submitted by Arduin, as well as for written communications between Arduin and her employers, Rubio and Sansom, turned up empty.
According to then-Florida House of Representatives Communications Director Jill Chamberlin (retired September, 2010), there simply are no records of work performed by Arduin (no reports, no audits, no presentations, no memos... nothing) during her time in the House under Rubio.

And Chamberlin, who served as spokeswoman for both Speaker Rubio and later for Speaker Sansom, says that it is not likely Arduin ever filed any reports of any kind -- as she was hired on as a consultant more for her connections in both the public and private sector. As such, said Chamberlin, most of Arduin's consultations took the form of face time with those in her immediate circle. Rubio did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:20PM JUN 9TH 2014
Consummating Blackwater in the State Senate in 2010

In early 2010, Arduin was contracted for work as an economic consultant in the Florida Senate under the purview of the office of then-Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), tasked with "providing analytical review of state government agency operations, including overlapping agency jurisdictions and functions, the financial structure of agencies, sources and uses of agency revenue, and agency expenditure patterns that will aid in economic and budgetary decisions associated with the development of Florida's budget."

This laundry list was broken down into three key functions (as itemized in the 2010 contract): 1) work with and advise the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee (Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales), 2) to coordinate with staff during development of the budget and during the conference committee on appropriations, and 3) to serve as otherwise directed by Chairman Alexander and Senate President Atwater.

As such, Arduin was contracted for employment in the Senate from February 4 through June 30, 2010, not through ALME, but through Laffer Associates (a Tennessee corporation founded by partner Arthur Laffer in October, 2006). The rate of pay for the duration of this contract was $7,000 per month.

As a private consultant under contract with the office of Senate President Atwater, Arduin worked under Atwater's Chief of Staff, Robert "Budd" Kneip.

Over the course of the past two decades, prior to becoming a public servant, Kneip served as "senior vice president of corporate planning and development" for Wackenhut Corporation, and as president and chief executive officer of several Wackenhut subsidiaries: Oasis Outsourcing, Oasis Outsourcing II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX, Oasis Outsourcing of Colorado, Oasis Outsourcing of Georgia, Oasis Outsourcing of Ohio, as well as of several other corporations operating under the banners of Oasis Outsourcing Benefits, Workforce Alternative and Wackenhut Resources, Incorporated (WRI).
While Kniep had been employed as chief of staff for the Office of the Florida Senate President from 2007 through 2010 (following Atwater's election to the office of Florida's Chief Financial Officer in November, 2010, Atwater appointed Kneip as his chief of staff in that office), incorporation papers for Oasis Outsourcing II on file with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission show that Kneip had been acting as president of this Wackenhut subsidiary as recently as December 31, 2005.
To further illustrate the cycle of influence between Wackenhut/Geo and the Florida Senate, it is important to note that nearly all of the Wackenhut subsidiary corporations over which Kneip had control were offshoots of King Employee Services, Inc., as well as related companies, King Staffing and King Benefits, which were purchased in 1997 from former Florida Senate President (2002-2004) Jim King by Wackenhut for $16 million -- reportedly King's cut of this deal was $5 million. King died in July 2009, still serving in the Senate.

In May 2010, during the last week of the Florida Legislature's conference to finalize the state budget bill, Ways and Means Chair Alexander slipped a proviso into the spending bill's section on criminal justice and corrections appropriations.

The proviso called for a cut of over $24 million to FDOC in order to close an unspecified number of state facilities in order to fill and open Blackwater.
This $24 million cut to FDOC was essentially written in as compensation, or displacement of funds, for the additional $22 million written into the budget for the sole purpose of "the operation [of] 2,224 adult male beds at Blackwater River Correctional Facility to be operational by November 1, 2010."

The state budget bill also called for FDOC to identify some 1,350 male adult custody psychological and medical care "beds" for potential privatization. Additionally, the budget bill stated that FDOC was required to develop a plan to reduce the operating costs of 6,400 additional beds by five percent -- using private beds if necessary.
And, just as the 2010-2011 budget bill was generous in its cuts to the state's public prison system, it was equally generous in handouts for private prison operators.

All-in-all the 2010-2011 budget bill contained over $1.2 million in state funds to be paid to local government taxing authorities in lieu of property taxes for the state's six existing private correctional facilities.

As such, the criminal justice corrections section of the 2010-2011 budget bill was met by stiff criticism -- most audibly from FDOC and the Florida Police Benevolent Association (Florida PBA, the state's prison guard union), and from Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Dockery noted in her criticism of the Blackwater-related provisions that, as was the case with the 2008 Sansom proviso, the appropriations and mandates concerning FDOC and Blackwater had never been discussed or approved in any committee.

According to FDOC Communications Director Gretl Plessinger, the issue most difficult to reconcile with the 2010-2011 budget was the fact that the state's prison system was actually running under capacity. Put simply, there was no need to push through the opening of Blackwater.
Whereas state inmate growth projections in 2008 had actually suggested that there may be a need for the facility by 2010, Plessinger said inmate growth had slowed to the point where construction/expansion projects underway on state-owned and operated facilities had ceased.
Regardless of the fact that there was no need on the part of the state to open Blackwater at the time, or the fact that by mandating the facility's opening by November 1 through the closure of existing state facilities, lawmakers were in effect mandating the possible loss of thousands of state jobs, there was a very real need on the part of Geo Group to have Blackwater CF opened as soon as possible.

In April 2010, DMS announced that it had awarded contracts for the management of both Moore Haven CF (985-beds) and Graceville CF (1,884 beds) -- both of which had been operated by Geo up to that point -- to CCA, thereby reducing Geo's holdings in their home state to 1,861 beds at South Bay CF by the end of the year -- unless Blackwater CF could be filled.

For her part, Arduin says that the idea of opening or building a private prison was never run by her in either the House or the Senate in 2008 or 2010.

When asked about the facility and the provisions of the 2010-2011 budget bill which called for its immediate opening, Arduin, who was paid $7,000 per month by the Senate as an economic consultant -- who, as stated by the terms of her contract, was to know the business of the state of Florida inside and out, down to the last dime -- responded, "Was that something that was in the 2010 budget?"

Arduin Joins Wackenhut/Geo REIT [Now called GEO GROUP]
On October 28, 2004, 13 days after her resignation from the Schwarzenegger administration, Arduin was elected to replace George Wackenhut (co-founder of Wackenhut Corp. and Wackenhut Corrections, who had died earlier that year) on the board of trustees of CentraCore Properties Trust (AKA Correctional Properties Trust, CPT), the real estate investment trust (REIT) of Wackenhut/Geo.

CPT was founded in 1998 by Richard and George Wackenhut, along with several other Wackenhut Corrections directors and executives, including current Geo Group director and then-mayor of South Bay, Florida (which, incidentally, is the site of one of Geo's prisons, South Bay CF), Clarence Anthony.

Additionally, Geo Group/Wackenhut Corrections president and CEO George Zoley was a founding CPT trustee, holding several tens of thousands of shares of common stock in the company.

Over the course of the REIT's existence, Charles R. Jones served as CPT President and CEO. According to court documents, Jones -- CPT founding trustee along with Zoley -- was Wackenhut's "investment banker" at the time of CPT's inception.
As an REIT, CPT was essentially the entity which held all of Wackenhut/Geo's real estate holdings.

While CPT was technically a separate independent entity outside the purview of Wackenhut/Geo, it is important to note that at the time its creation, the REIT's holdings consisted solely of Wackenhut properties. At the time of its eventual merger back into Geo Group in 2007 (at which time it became Geo Acquisition II, a Delaware corporation governed by Zoley, Calabrese and Geo General Counsel John Bulfin), the REIT owned 13 properties, 11 of which it "leased" to Geo.

Due to this extremely close relationship to Wackenhut/Geo, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) auditors had questioned on at least one occasion whether CPT was in fact an entity independent of Wackenhut/Geo.
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:18PM JUN 9TH 2014
Strange Appearances and Strange Bedfellows

On the evening of Monday, August 22, 2005, a party of high ranking Florida Department of Corrections personnel met up at a bar in Tallahassee. The bar was Clyde and Costello's, an establishment known to cater to the Tallahassee lobbyist/mover-and-shaker crowd. The party that night consisted of FDOC Secretary James Crosby, Washington Correctional Institution (CI) Warden Rick Anglin, Gulf CI Warden Dale Hughes, and FDOC Region 1 Correctional Services Consultant Brad Tunnell.

According to documents obtained from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), sometime toward the end of the evening, Crosby took Tunnell to the side and told him, "You know, you need to talk to your dad. You need to get him off my boys."

Brad Tunnell's father is Guy Tunnell, who, at that time was FDLE Commissioner.

At the time of the August, 2005 meeting at Clyde and Costello's, FDLE was investigating Crosby, FDOC Region 1 Director Allen Clark, and several other FDOC employees on a wide array of charges including assault, steroids distribution, misappropriation of state funds/resources, and a kickback scheme involving two private prison canteen service providers: Keefe Commissary Network and American Institutional Services (AIS).
According to FDLE records, Crosby continued in his threat, putting a fine point on his demands after Tunnell stated that he didn't understand what Crosby was getting at: "AC (Allen Clark), they need to lay off AC. They need to leave him the [filtered word] alone. You need to tell your dad."
Brad Tunnell claimed that he responded by stating that he could not tell his father how to do his job, to which Crosby allegedly responded by threatening to open an administrative investigation into a brawl Tunnell had reportedly been a party to at a FDOC event earlier that year.
Subsequent events -- namely the federal indictments and convictions of both Allen Clark and James Crosby in 2006 and 2007 -- shed some light on why Crosby was so eager that the FDLE investigation into Clark end.
Both Clark and Crosby had been involved in a kickback scheme in which two Gainesville area businessmen, Edward Lee Dugger and Joseph Arthur Deese, proprietors of AIS, paid out approximately $130,000 to Clark and Crosby from October, 2003 through February, 2006, in exchange for Crosby and Clark's facilitating and arranging a partnership between AIS and Keefe Commissary wherein AIS provided visitor canteen services at FDOC Region 1 facilities as a vendor under subcontract with the state through Keefe.
David Ericks and Donna Arduin
Crosby stated under oath to FDLE investigators looking into his alleged threat to Tunnell on the evening of August 22, 2005, that he had gone to Clyde and Costello's that evening to meet with Clyde and Costello's owner, David Ericks, and Ericks' longtime girlfriend, Donna Arduin.
Ericks, aside from being the owner of Clyde and Costello's, is owner of Ericks Consultants, a lobbying firm which has represented Wackenhut/Geo Group for over a decade. Ericks was also the chief lobbyist for Keefe Commissary in Florida from March, 2005 through 2009. What's more, Ericks represented Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics (ALME) in 2005.

Additionally, Ericks paid the bar tab of $143.25 for the 31 drinks consumed by the FDOC men that evening. It is important to note that all of the FDOC employees present at Clyde's that evening, with the exception of Secretary Crosby, were high ranking officials in FDOC Region 1 -- the region for which all of the AIS/Keefe bribes were intended to facilitate business.

Court documents filed with the mysteriously late indictments (given the fact that both Crosby and Clark had already been convicted and sentenced for their roles in the kickback scheme) of Deese and Dugger in June, 2010, indicate that Keefe was also a recipient of the kickbacks reaped through the AIS/Crosby arrangement in that Deese and Dugger would also pay both monetary and non-monetary bribes to unnamed Keefe executives and representatives -- most significantly the payment of a Keefe executive's $5,000 credit card bill in October, 2005, about a month from the date of the Clyde and Costello's meeting.

Furthermore, a federal civil case (seeking forfeiture of criminally-obtained revenue) based on the testimony of FBI Special Agent Jannet Pellicciotti, which is stayed pending the outcome of the Deese and Dugger cases, alleges that Keefe Commissary, along with AIS, Crosby and Clark, is guilty of mail fraud, in that the U.S. Postal Service was used to deliver the criminally-obtained proceeds of the canteen partnership to Keefe's corporate offices in St. Louis, Missouri.

During the FDLE interview following the Clyde's incident, Crosby stated that he, Ericks and Arduin, had spent a substantial amount of time that evening speaking privately outside Clyde and Costello's on an undisclosed subject.
Oddly enough, while FDLE investigators had interviewed every person, from an off-duty cocktail waitress who had been drinking with the men, to Ericks, on the events of the night of August 22, 2005, they never interviewed Arduin.

It also appears that then-Governor Bush recognized the significance of Clyde and Costello's as the setting for this particular meeting. According to FDLE transcripts, then-Commissioner Tunnell recalled Bush's dismay during his briefing on the investigation following the threats made by Crosby (click here to listen to full FDLE interview with Tunnel wherein Tunnell discusses Bush's concern with Crosby's activities at Clyde and Costello's).
"The Governor was upset Crosby was back at Clyde's again," recalled Tunnell to investigators, suggesting that Crosby had ongoing business at Ericks' bar of which Bush was aware.

Tunnell declined repeated requests for an interview, stating only: "I'm not interested in opening that painful chapter of my family's life again."
Bush could not be reached for comment.
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:15PM JUN 9TH 2014
For her part, Arduin, who was appointed by Bush to the Florida Property Tax Reform Committee the following year (2006, while still serving as a CPT trustee), denies the meeting ever took place, or that she ever had occasion to meet with Crosby outside of her role as an agency head of the Bush administration. Nor, says Arduin, did she ever have any business with Keefe.
"I never had a meeting with James Crosby. I mean, if he said he went over there to meet us, he might have been -- he and Dave might have had something to talk about, but I never had a meeting with him," said Arduin. "I never had any business with him after I left the state of Florida. We were -- we both worked for the same administration for a while. I was consulting for Speaker Rubio, but I never did any work for Speaker Rubio that would have had me have a meeting with a corrections secretary... But obviously, he had reasons to be meeting with Dave."
Interestingly, perhaps indicative of some shared business growth strategy, just as Ericks represented the interests of Keefe, Geo Group, and ALME (at a time when Arduin was a trustee of CPT) in Florida in 2005, this pattern of mutual lobby representation was replicated the following year in Texas with Keefe, CPT, Atlantic Shores Healthcare (the entity which would become Geo Group's prison medical service arm, Geo Care), all represented by Texas lobbyist and former chief of staff to Texas State Rep. Ray Allen, Scott Gilmore.
Crosby, who is currently incarcerated at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, turned down a request for an interview.
Ericks did not return multiple phone calls and emails requesting comment.
It is also worth noting that every single federal campaign contribution -- except for one -- recorded by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for Arduin over the past decade lists her place of residence as being either Ft. Lauderdale or Tallahassee. The exception is a single $1,000 contribution to then-Missouri Senator James Talent, credited to Arduin in 2005, the record of which lists her place of residence as being St. Louis, Missouri, home of Keefe Commissary and its parent company, Centric Group.
Arduin says that she has no recollection of any such contribution or any idea why her address would be listed as being in St. Louis.
And while Arduin claims that she never had any involvement with Keefe, FEC records show that Talent was the top pick above and beyond all other candidates for Keefe and Centric Group during the 2006 election cycle -- with at least $35,950 in campaign contributions from Keefe and Centric Group executives and employees going to Talent from October, 2005 to June, 2006.
Of this nearly $36,000 campaign cash influx, $20,000 was paid directly into Talent's two political action committees ($10,000 to each) by Keefe and Centric Group President Douglas Albrecht. Albrecht retired his post at the helm of Keefe and Centric Group following the Crosby and Clark indictments. He could not be reached for comment.
Rick Scott, Donna Arduin, and a Historic Privatization Attempt
On February 7, 2011 newly-elected Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled his budget proposal to cut approximately $5 billion in state spending. The proposal was the actuation of Scott's "7-7-7 Jobs" plan ("seven steps, seven years, 700,000 jobs"), much touted by Scott and supporters over the course of the 2010 campaign as the solution for the state's deep fiscal woes.
The plan was Donna Arduin's key contribution to the Scott campaign. And Arduin, as head of Scott's transitional budget advisory team, was tasked with assembling the full budget proposal for presentation to the legislature.
According to documents released by the Executive Office of Governor Scott (EOG), this budget team was handpicked and led by Arduin. The team consisted of Tad DeHaven, Talmadge Heflin, Randall Holcombe, Art Laffer and Robert McClure.
DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Heflin is director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy. Arduin is a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Interestingly enough, 2010 Texas Public Policy Foundation tax records list a donation of $15,000 from Geo Group.

Laffer is, of course, Arduin's business partner at Arduin, Laffer and Moore (ALME). Laffer and Stephen Moore (of ALME) are also on the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Board of Scholars. Moore had served as director of fiscal policy and as a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and is founder of Club for Growth -- yet another limited-government-free-market "conservative" "think tank."
It is worth noting, given Arduin's advisory role with the Rubio senate campaign, that the Club for Growth Political Action Committee (PAC) committed $10,002.45 in support to Rubio's senate bid in just over two months, from February 12 to April 16, 2010. This support was delivered in the form of independent expenditures for electioneering communications aimed both at supporting Rubio and at criticizing Rubio's chief opponent, Charlie Crist. These expenditures occurred in the heated pre-primary election months leading up to Crist's departure from the Republican Party (Crist announced he would continue to run as an independent on April 29, 2010) .
McClure is president and CEO of the James Madison Institute.
Holcombe is a senior fellow at the James Madison Institute.
The Cato Institute is an offshoot of the Charles Koch Foundation. Charles and David Koch, the principal shareholders of Koch Industries, are the financiers of a network of "conservative" and "libertarian" not-for-profit organizations. Such Koch-funded groups have included Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation, ALEC, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the James Madison Institute.
A staple agenda item for these "think tanks" has been the privatization of public services. And, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, Koch Industries was fairly heavily invested in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) -- owning tens of thousands of shares in the nation's largest private profit prison/immigrant detention center operator -- from 2002 through 2005 (to be fair, Koch Industries held hundreds of thousands of shares in a diverse set of corporate interests during this time). During the 1990s, the private prison industry enjoyed tremendous growth, thanks, in large part, to "tough-on-crime" legislation advanced by ALEC (of which CCA was a part), the National Rifle Association (another longtime ALEC member) and other "conservative" Koch-backed think tanks.
Not surprisingly, given the influence of Arduin's budget advisory team, the 2011 Scott budget proposal took heavy aim at the state's prison system and state prison health care.
Prior to the unveiling of the full budget proposal, the Arduin/Scott "7-7-7" budget plan advertised a reduction in correctional costs by $1 billion simply by "paying competitive market-based salaries for correction's staff, utilizing inmate labor to grow prison food, and competitively bidding health care contracts resulting in public prison costs that are as low as private prisons..." In reality, as shown with the unveiling of the full budget proposal, the plan called for the elimination of nearly 8,700 state government positions -- 1,690 of which would be eliminated from FDOC through $82 million in budget cuts.
Additionally, the proposed budget called for the privatization of all three of the Florida's public mental hospitals -- a gig which seemed ideally suited for Geo Group's correctional/mental health care subsidiary, Geo Care, already the largest private provider of such services in the state.
As dramatic as the proposed cuts to FDOC were at the time of the budget's unveiling, a proviso inserted into the budget called for the privatization of a full third of FDOC operations -- 29 facilities in 18 south Florida counties. Not surprisingly, the proviso had been inserted into the budget by Senate budget chair J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales). Arduin had worked as a budget consultant to Alexander in 2010. This collaboration resulted in a proviso to that year's budget that called for a $24 million cut to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) budget in order to close existing state-run facilities so that Blackwater River CF could be filled and opened.
And, as was the case in 2010, the 2011 Alexander privatization proviso bore Arduin' hoofmarks. In October of 2011, Alexander told the Tallahassee Democrat that the proviso calling for the privatization of the 29 FDOC facilities had been "suggested" by Arduin.
Privatize, Privatize and Privatize
2:13PM JUN 9TH 2014
With the passage of this budget and the privatization proviso, the Florida legislature initiated one of the largest prison privatization plans in the history of the nation (comparable efforts had previously been attempted in Tennessee and Arizona). Nevertheless, in July of 2011, the Florida Police Benevolent Association (FPBA) -- the union then representing the bulk of the state's prison guards -- filed suit to enjoin the privatization plan. Essentially, FPBA argued that the privatization plan violated extant state law governing prison privatization in that the privatization mandate had been passed as a budgetary proviso -- not as a stand-alone bill.
In September, 2011, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fullford ruled in favor of FPBA.
"This Court concludes that if it is the will of the Legislature to itself initiate privatization of Florida prisons, as opposed to [FDOC], the Legislature must do so by general law, rather than 'using the hidden recesses of the General Appropriations Act,'" opined Fullford in her ruling.
While the Scott administration had stated it would not appeal the ruling, in October, 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an appeal to the Fullford ruling. In July, 2012, the appeals court struck down Bondi's appeal, ruling that the Attorney General did not have standing in the case, as Bondi was not a party listed in the original circuit court case.
In January, 2012, lawmakers championing the prison privatization agenda, led by Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Melbourne) and Alexander, introduced SB 2038, which -- like the budget proviso before it -- called for the privatization of the entire southern FDOC region.
Despite intensive partisan and industry lobbying on behalf of the bill, SB 2038 was defeated in the Florida Senate on February 14, 2012 (dubbed the "St. Valentine's Massacre" by opponents of the privatization plan). Interestingly enough, though many Republican senators had broken party ranks and joined with the Senate's 12 Democrats in voting the bill down, Sen. Don Gaetz (who had been a staunch supporter, along with former Rep. Sansom, of Blackwater River CF and "Project Justice"), Sen. John Thrasher (who had introduced the Senate counterpart to 2011's anti-public-emplyee-union "Paycheck Protection" bill -- a bill with ALEC roots, heavily touted by such Koch-backed public policy groups as Americans for Prosperity) and Senate President Mike Haridopolos (whose "special counsel" Andy Bardos had worked closely with the Florida Chamber of Commerce in drafting the 2011 "Paycheck Protection" bill) all joined Alexander in voting for the bill. And, as in the death of the "Paycheck Protection" bill, a handful of moderate Republicans led opposition within the state's GOP ranks. Namely, in the case of SB 2038, the Republican privatization resistance was led by Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey), Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland -- Dockery had been an outspoken critic of Blackwater River CF as well) and Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater).
These Republican lawmakers, for whatever reason, simply could not be convinced that trading more than 3,500 state jobs for negligible savings though privatization -- at a time when both the state prison population and economy were virtually static -- was a good idea.
In a statement to the Miami Herald, one of the GOP senators who voted against the bill summed up what seemed to be the key to dissent on the issue:
"What's wrong with state employees?" said Sen. Dennis Jones (R-Seminole). "We should be taking care of them, rather than kicking them under the bus."
For his criticism of the privatization plan, Sen. President Haridopolos removed Fasano as chair of the criminal justice appropriations subcommittee in February of 2012. And Fasano wasn't the only casualty of the Scott privatization plan. In August of 2011, Scott forced the resignation of FDOC Secretary Edwin Buss. Buss, like Fasano, had been an ardent critic of the privatization plan.
Those seeking clarity in understanding Florida's unprecedented slide into wholesale prison privatization under the Scott administration may need look no farther than the events of February 6, 2011 -- Super Bowl Sunday.
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Scott was a guest at a Super Bowl party at the home of lobbyist Brian Ballard the day prior to the unveiling of the budget proposal. According to Florida lobby disclosure records, Ballard is a longtime state legislative lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and, as of January 14, 2011, an executive branch lobbyist for Geo Group.

According to the Sentinel, Ballard had helped to raise more than $3 million for Scott's inaugural celebration (according to EOG documents, Ballard and his wife Kathryn actually served as "finance chairs" for the inaugural committee). Additionally, as reported by the Sentinel, Geo Group -- in addition to the more than $400,000 in contributions paid out to the Republican Party of Florida during the 2010 election cycle -- contributed $25,000 to the Scott debutante event.
It is also worth noting that Carrie O'Rourke is the daughter of former Geo Group Chief Financial Officer John O'Rourke (1991 to August 2009. It should be noted, however, that a Geo Group press release announcing O'Rourke's retirement stated that O'Rourke would likely continue work for the private prison corporation as a "consultant" following his departure as CFO. In keeping with this, O'Rourke founded the consulting firm of J.G. O'Rourke and Associates, LLC. in August, 2009), served as finance director of the Scott inaugural committee. It is also worth noting that the Scott gubernatorial campaign employed the services of veteran Florida GOP fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke, Carrie O'Rourke's sister.
As such, given these ties, it comes as no surprise that, according to EOG records, the Scott gubernatorial transition team considered and interviewed John O'Rourke for the position of FDOC secretary during these early months of the administration. While O'Rourke did not get the FDOC job, Scott did appoint O'Rourke to the Florida Prepaid College Board (Gubernatorially-appointed administrators of the state secondary education scholarship and savings programs) in February of 2011.
As reported by Politico, the Romney presidential campaign retained the fundraising services of Meredith O'Rourke in March of 2011. Senatorial candidate Rubio also retained the fundraising services of O'Rourke's firm, Forward Strategies, during the 2010 election cycle.
Diane Brown
9:06AM JUN 9TH 2014
Another choice between two crooks? Well, let's see, we have a choice between Crist whose campaign received illegal contributions but has never been connected to illegal activity, and Rick Scott whose personal company was guilty of the biggest fraud scheme against US taxpayers in history, and who pleaded the 5th about 75 times to avoid being indicted himself, then comes in and totally dismantles environment and growth mgt laws that interfere with raping the environment and killing quality of life for Floridians, while sending them the bill to pay for the misdeeds. Not that hard a choice.
Florida has long been a RICO operation
2:58PM JUN 9TH 2014
And Jeb Bush was right in the middle of this one!

April 25, 2007- Eight years in prison for James Crosby ended his 31 years with the Florida Department of Corrections in disgrace last year, forced out by the governor, his office barricaded with yellow crime scene tape.

The crime, as it turned out, was scheming with his longtime protege to accept $130,000 in kickbacks from a prison vendor. The punishment came Tuesday: eight years in federal prison.

How it unfoldedKey events in the tenure and federal case against former state Corrections Secretary James Crosby, who took over the department in 2003: Summer 2004: Crosby and his protege Allen Clark help broker a deal to get Gainesville-based American Institutional Services a contract to sell snacks and sodas to people visiting Florida prison on weekends. In return, Clark and Crosby get 40 percent of the profits, according to court records. November 2004: Crosby receives the first of his monthly kickback payments. He'll take payments between $1,000 and $12,000 until August 2005, when he asks that the payments stop as the investigation into the Department of Corrections was heating up. Fall 2005: After court cases surface including a steroid ring among prison guards, a drunken brawl at a softball banquet and a no-show job for a former minor league baseball player, Gov. Jeb Bush tells Crosby he should resign if he has done anything wrong. Crosby says he has not and stays on board. February 2006: Bush forces Crosby to resign. Bush later explains he wanted to fire Crosby a month earlier but was told by state and federal investigators to hold off while an ironclad case was built against him. July 2006: Crosby and Clark both plead guilty to taking up to $130,000 in kickbacks from American Institutional Services. Tuesday: Crosby is sentenced to eight years in federal prison.
"The public's trust was violated," U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington told Crosby during the sentencing hearing. "As the head of the department, you have to suffer the consequences."
Acting U.S. Attorney Jim Klindt said the sentence sends a message that public corruption will be dealt with severely.
Steve Andrews, one of Crosby's attorneys, said they respect the judge's rationale for her decision.
Crosby and Allen Clark both pleaded guilty in July to taking kickbacks from American Institutional Services, a company formed by Gainesville businessman Eddie Dugger to sell snacks and sodas to weekend prison visitors. For helping AIS get the potential $1.5 million deal, Crosby and Clark would get 40 percent of the profits. Agents raided AIS offices last summer and found more than $100,000, which the government is trying to seize, court records show.
Dugger has not been charged. His attorney, Bill Sheppard, was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. Crosby, though, is continuing to cooperate with a federal investigation, Andrews said.
As Crosby moved up through the department, he brought Clark along with him, seeing that Clark was promoted despite disciplinary issues. Crosby led a department of fiefdoms fueled by nepotism and cronyism, said James McDonough, who assumed Crosby's office when the yellow tape was still up. McDonough said in court the vast majority of the 27,000 employees did their jobs, but he found "pockets of corruption" and "ill-disciplined people" who thought they could get away with whatever they wanted. McDonough said some employees told him they had to go along. "Those people offered you a buffer against the exposure of your own corruption," McDonough said.
The buffer started to chip three years ago when the indictments began and the heavy-drinking, softball-obsessed subculture came to public light.
Seven officers went to state court for either embezzling from a state-run recycling center or for having inmates build and fix items for officers' personal use. Nine officers, most of whom were softball players, pleaded guilty in federal court to either distributing or possessing anabolic steroids.
With each federal guilty plea came cooperation. The only person to receive prison time, Marcus Hodges, had his prison sentence reduced from 30 months to 21 months after information he gave led to Clark's guilty plea, court records show.
In the corruption case, Clark started talking first, after investigators approached him in February 2006, Klindt said in court. Clark told investigators how the scheme worked and how much he and Crosby had been receiving. Clark will be sentenced on April 25, 2007.
C Breeze
8:01AM JUN 9TH 2014
NOT THIS TIME Charlie "The TUNA" Crist ! "NO GO" for you, "Morgan & Morgan", or the rest of your "moneyed henchmen"; Every bit of your "wasted money" boys, will not convince Floridians to reinstall that "LOSER" in the Governor's seat. Charlie should do what other failed Democrat politicians do: Follow Hillary's lead and move to another State and take up residence (At least she made Arkansas happy,.. Why can't you do the same for Florida Charlie?). P.S.: Dear "Money Boys", It would be better if you spent your "extra" money on "Wounded Warriors" instead of 'wounded politicians'... (We would then think better of you and your intelligence quotient would rise in our eyes; After all, why would anyone pay so dearly to have a governor "in their pocket"? THAT can only lead to indictments "down the road".....
Diane Brown
9:08AM JUN 9TH 2014
"Charlie the Tuna." Isn't that rather childish, calling people silly names.
The truth is stranger than fiction
7:17AM JUN 10TH 2014
The Modern Bush’s George HW and Sons and coming soon grandsons-

In 1991, President George HW Bush bristled at a flurry of news accounts that questioned the business ethics of three of his sons. "The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing," Bush complained. "They [the boys] have a right to make a living, and their relationships are appropriate," added a White House spokeswoman in June 1992.
Since George Bush has raised "family values" as a campaign issue repeatedly, though, it seems only fair to take a look at his own family. A computer search showed that over the past five years stories have periodically surfaced chronicling the individual business antics of the president's sons -- each riding comfortably through life in the slipstream of his father's growing power and influence.
Although a handful of good reporters for the New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, and Wall Street Journal have diligently been digging through business records for months, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family.
Instead of criticizing reporters, the president might more wisely begin listening to those in government who have watched his sons with mounting worry. A year ago, I sat across a desk from a Secret Service agent who had been assigned to Bush-family security. I rattled off the names of a half-dozen questionable characters who had found their way into business deals with the Bush boys. How had these characters been allowed to get even close to the president's sons?
The agent slumped back in his chair and sighed. "We warn them," he said in a whisper. "But that's all we can do. We can't stop these kids from associating with someone they want to be with. All we can do after warning them is to sweep these guys with metal detectors when they come around."
What follows is a sourcebook of concerns about the president's three sons.

George Walker Bush (43)
None of George Bush's offspring is more his father's son than George W. Bush. George Jr., or "Shrub" as Molly Ivins refers to him, began his own Texas oil career in the mid-1970s when he formed Bush Exploration. Like the business dealings of his brothers, George's company was not a success, and it was rescued in 1983 by another oil company, Spectrum 7, run by several staunch and well-heeled Reagan-Bush supporters. But by mid-1986, a soft oil market found Spectrum also near bankruptcy.
Many oil companies went belly-up during that time. But Spectrum had one asset the others lacked -- the son of the vice-president. Rescue came in 1986 in the form of Harken Energy, just in the nick of time. Harken absorbed Spectrum, and, in the process, Junior got $600,000 worth of Harken stock in return for his Spectrum shares. He also won a lucrative consulting contract and stock options. In all, the deal would put well over $1 million in his pocket over the next few years -- even though Harken itself lost millions.
Harken Energy was formed in l973 by two oilmen who would benefit from a successful covert effort to destabilize Australia's Labor Party government (which had attempted to shut out foreign oil exploration). A decade later, Harken was sold to a new investment group headed by New York attorney Alan G. Quasha, a partner in the firm of Quasha, Wessely & Schneider. Quasha's father, a powerful attorney in the Philippines, had been a staunch supporter of then-president Ferdinand Marcos. William Quasha had also given legal advice to two top officials of the notorious Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, a CIA operation.
After the sale of Harken Energy in 1983, Alan Quasha became a director and chairman of the board. Under Quasha, Harken suddenly absorbed Junior's struggling Spectrum 7 in 1986. The merger immediately opened a financial horn of plenty and reversed Junior's fortunes. But like his brother Jeb, Junior seemed unconcerned about the characters who were becoming his benefactors. Harken's $25 million stock offering in 1987, for example, was underwritten by a Little Rock, Arkansas, brokerage house, Stephens, Inc., which placed the Harken stock offering with the London subsidiary of Union Bank -- a bank that had surfaced in the scandal that resulted in the downfall of the Australian Labor government in 1976 and, later, in the Nugan Hand Bank scandal. (It was also Union Bank, according to congressional hearings on international money laundering, that helped the now-notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International skirt Panamanian money-laundering laws by flying cash out of the country in private jets, and that was used by Ferdinand Marcos to stash 325 tons of Philippine gold around the world.)
Stephens, Inc., also helped introduce the BCCI virus into US banking in 1978 when it arranged the sale of Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia to BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan. (The head of Stephens, Inc., Jackson Stephens, is a member of President Bush's exclusive "Team 100," a group of 249 wealthy individuals who have contributed at least $100,000 each to the GOP's presidential-campaign committee.)
If any of these associations raised questions in the mind of George Bush, Jr., he had little incentive to voice them. Besides getting Harken stock through the deal, Junior was paid $80,000 a year as a consultant (until 1989, when his wages were increased to $120,000; recently they were reduced to $45,000). He was also allowed to borrow $180,375 from the company at very low interest rates. In 1989 and 1990, according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Harken's board "forgave" $341,000 in loans to its executives. In addition, Junior took advantage of the company's ultraliberal executive stock purchase plan, which allowed him to buy Harken stock at 40 percent below market value.
Such lavish executive compensation would suggest a company doing quite well indeed. But in reality, Harken had little going for itself. One Wall Street analyst called Harken's web of insider stock deals and mounting debt "a lot of jiggery-pokery." Harken was not making money and could not have continued into 1990 without at least some means of convincing lenders and investors that the company would soon find a lot of oil.
Suddenly, in January 1990, Harken Energy became the talk of the Texas oil industry. The company with no offshore-oil-drilling experience beat out a more-established international conglomerate, Amoco, in bagging the exclusive contract to drill in a promising new offshore oil field for the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain. The deal had been arranged for Harken by two former Stephens, Inc., brokers. A company insider claims the president's son did not initiate the deal -- but feels that his presence in the firm helped with the Bahrainis. "Hell, that's why he's on the damn board," the insider says. "...You say, `By the way, the president's son sits on our board.' You use that. There's nothing wrong with that."
Junior has told acquaintances conflicting stories about his own involvement in the deal. He first claimed that he had "recused" himself from the deal; "George said he left the room when Bahrain was being discussed `because we can't even have the appearance of having anything to do with the government.' He was into a big rant about how unfair it was to be the president's son. He said, `I was so scrupulous I was never in the room when it was discussed.'"
Junior alternately claimed, to reporters for the Wall Street Journal and D Magazine, that he had opposed the arrangement. But the company insider says, to the contrary, that Junior was excited about the Bahrain deal. "Like any member of the board, he was thrilled," the associate says. "His attitude was, `Holy [filtered word], what a great deal!'"
Through the Bahrain deal, the ties between BCCI and Harken Energy grew tighter. Sheikh Khalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain and brother of the emir, was also a shareholder in BCCI -- and it was Khalifah who played the key role in selecting Harken for the job. Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, in turn, was a business associate of BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan; he bought a chunk of Harken's stock and placed his representative, Talat Othman, on Harken Energy's board of directors.
Did Junior or any of the other Harken Energy executives trade on the Bush name in these speculative business deals? None of the principals will answer questions. But this much is known: after the Harken-Bahrain deal was settled, Othman was added to the list of fifteen Arabs who met with President George Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft three times in 1990 -- once just two days after Iraq invaded Kuwait -- while serving on Harken's board of directors.
The promise of hitting it big in the oil-rich gulf was certainly critical for Harken. News of the Bahrain deal kept investors buying stock and lenders making loans. Still, Harken had nowhere near the capital required for such a large offshore operation halfway around the world. This required real money. But not to worry: The billionaire Bass brothers stepped up to the plate and said they'd be happy to underwrite the cost of the drilling in return for a piece of the action. (Robert Bass is a member of President Bush's Team 100; he and other Bass family members have contributed $226,000 to George, Sr.'s, cause since 1988.)
But even well-heeled friends like the Bass brothers could not protect Harken from the troubles of the world. Just four months after the Bahrain deal was sealed, storm clouds developed over the gulf region, threatening the oil-exploration deal. In May 1990, the U.S. State Department sent a chilling but still classified report to Scowcroft. The report warned that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was out of control and was threatening his neighbors:

May 16, 1990
Attached is a paper containing a list of options for responding to recent actions and statements by the Government of Iraq. ...We ask that you pass this paper to Robert Gates [CIA] for his review.
Under "options" the memo suggested: Ban Oil Purchases: The largest benefit Iraq receives from the US is through our oil purchases...
PRO -- A total ban on oil purchases would have some short-term impact.
CON -- Such action might also have an impact on US Oil prices.
Oil companies had learned, during the years of the long Iran-Iraq war, that trouble in the gulf hurts companies with oil interests because, for one thing, at the first sound of a rifle shot in the gulf region, Lloyds of London jacks up insurance rates on oil tankers and company installations. The "wartime" rates are very high and cut deeply into company profits and investor confidence. If things really get out of hand, pipelines are destroyed and waterways are mined.
The secret memo augured ill for Harken's fledgling venture. To compound matters, that same month, Harken's own financial advisers at Smith Barney produced a hand-wringing report voicing alarm at the company's rapidly deteriorating financial condition. (A former company official told Mother Jones that Harken owed more than $150 million to banks and other creditors at the time.) Since Harken wasn't producing anything, it was hard to find a revenue stream, unless you count the river of fees, stock options, and salaries running into the pockets of Junior and other top Harken executives. Junior, as a member of Harken's restructuring committee, could not have been ignorant of the report, since the board had met in May and worked directly with the Smith Barney consultants.
In June 1990, Junior suddenly unloaded the bulk of his Harken stock -- 212,140 shares -- for a tidy $848,560. A former business associate says that Junior's motivation was his desire to buy an expensive new house in Dallas, for which he wanted to pay cash. The June 1990 transaction was an insider stock sale, and security laws required that it be reported no later than July 10, 1990. But Junior filed no such report, at least not then.
Then, in August, Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait, and Harken shares plummeted 25 percent. Junior would have lost $212,140 if he'd waited to sell his shares until then. Still, he didn't file his SEC disclosure until seven months later, in March 1991 -- well after U.S. troops had finished fighting and the gulf war had moved off the front pages. Harken stock rebounded briefly, but quickly collapsed again.
Were government secrets discussed, directly or indirectly, that would have given Harken Energy a leg up in exploiting the Bahrain deal? The White House won't say. If Junior traded on exclusive, nonpublic, insider information, he committed a gross violation of SEC rules. Taken together, the company's critical need for success in its Bahraini deal and a possible oil embargo to be imposed by his father provided Junior with strong motivation to bail out of Harken stock before the public discovered either piece of news. (SEC spokesman John Heine says he is unaware of any enforcement action pending.)
The folks at Harken Energy weren't the only ones in Texas taking care of Junior during the 1980s. He was appointed the managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, even though his partnership contribution was only a fraction of the team's purchase price. Among those coughing up the money to buy the Rangers were William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, major contributors to the president's campaign who had also been in on the rescue of Junior's oil company. Richard (Rick) Lynn Scott now governor of Florida was also a Rangers partner.
Junior doesn't deny that being a Bush has helped him become a millionaire. "I recognize what my talents are and what my weaknesses are," he told Texas reporters last year. "I don't get hung up on it. Being George Bush's son has its pluses and minuses in some people's minds. In my thinking, it's a plus."

Junior might have been thinking that among the minuses were questions about his role at Harken. As this article was being prepared -- and in the midst of extensive interviewing of former and current Harken business associates -- Junior announced a six-month leave of absence as a consultant and member of the Harken board. His role in the presidential campaign, the statement said, precluded Junior's active involvement at Harken through the remainder of 1992.
In any case, Junior is stepping away from a company in deep trouble. Harken stock is trading near its all-time low. Recently, test wells in Bahrain turned up dry and the company has not produced anything else. "Harken is not hard to understand -- it's easy," says Charles Strain, an energy-company analyst in Houston. "The company has only one real asset -- its Bahrain contract. If that field turns out to be dry, Harken's stock is worth, at the most, 25 cents a share. If they hit it big over there, the stock could be worth $30 to $40 dollars a share. It's a pure crapshoot."

John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush

After graduating from Texas University, Jeb Bush served a short apprenticeship at the Venezuelan branch of Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas before settling in Miami, in 1980, to work on his father's unsuccessful primary bid against Ronald Reagan. Campaigning for Dad was hardly a paying job. But Jeb was about to learn that being one of George Bush's sons means never having to circulate a résumé.
In the next few years, financial support flowed to Jeb through Miami's right-wing Cuban community. Republican party politics and a series of business scandals -- including Medicaid fraud and shady S&L deals -- were inextricably intertwined. A former federal prosecutor told MJ that, when he looked into Jeb's lucrative business dealings with a now-fugitive Cuban, he considered two possibilities -- Jeb was either crooked or stupid. At the time, he concluded Jeb was merely stupid.
Jeb and Armando Codina
Shortly after arriving in Miami, Jeb was hired by Cuban-American developer Armando Codina to work at his Miami development company as an agent leasing office space. A couple of years later, Jeb and Codina became business partners, and in 1985 they purchased an office building in a deal partly financed by a savings and loan that later failed.
The $4.56 million loan, from Broward Federal Savings in Sunrise, Florida, was granted in such a way that neither Codina's nor Bush's name appeared on the loan papers as the borrowers. A third man, J. Edward Houston, borrowed the $4.56 million from Broward and then re-lent it to the Bush partnership. When federal regulators closed Broward Savings in 1988, they found the loan, which had been secured by the Bush partnership, in default.
As Jeb's father was finishing his second term as vice-president and running for the presidency, federal regulators had two options: to get Jeb Bush and his partner to repay the loan, or to foreclose on their office building. But regulators came up with a third solution. After reappraising the building, regulators decided it wasn't worth as much as was owed for it. The regulators reduced the amount owed by Bush and his partner from $4.56 million to just $500,000. The pair paid that amount and were allowed to keep their office building. Taxpayers picked up the tab for the unpaid $4 million.

After the Broward Savings deal was revealed, Jeb described himself and his partner as "victims of circumstances."
Jeb and Camilo Padrera
By 1984, Jeb had been made chairman of the Dade County Republican party, and it was as Republican party chief that he nuzzled up to con man Camilo Padreda. Padreda was serving as Dade County GOP finance chairman and had raised money for the party from Miami's Cuban community. (He had also been a counterintelligence officer for deposed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.) Padreda made his living as a developer who specialized in deals with the corrupt Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1986, he hired Jeb as the leasing agent for a vacant commercial-office building, which Padreda had built with $1.4 million in federal loans -- loans approved by HUD officials, oddly enough, even though they knew there was already a glut of vacant office space in Miami.
Like so many of those who would attach themselves to the Bush sons over the years, Padreda brought some hefty luggage with him. In 1982, four years before teaming up with Jeb, Padreda, along with another right-wing Cuban exile, Hernandez Cartaya, was indicted and accused of looting Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas. The federal indictment charged that the pair had embezzled over $500,000 from the thrift. (Cartaya was also charged with drug smuggling, money laundering, and gun running.) But the Jefferson Savings case would never go to trial.

Soon after the indictment, FBI officials got a call from someone at the CIA warning the agents that Cartaya was one of their own -- a veteran of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion -- according to a prosecutor who worked on the case. In short order, the charges against Padreda were dropped and the charges against Cartaya were reduced to a single count of tax evasion. (Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Sanford was furious and filed a demand with the CIA, under the Freedom of Information Act, for all documents relating to the agency's interference in his case. The CIA, citing national-security reasons, denied Sanford's request.)
In 1989, Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton wrote about Jefferson Savings and Cartaya in a series of stories alleging that CIA operatives and contractors had systematically misused at least twenty-six savings and loans during the 1980s as part of a secret program to fund illegal "off-the-shelf" covert operations, particularly those aiding the Nicaraguan contras. (CIA officials denied the charge, but admitted to the House intelligence Committee in 1990 that former CIA operatives had been working at four of the S&Ls named in Brewton's article. A CIA spokesman claimed that agency operatives had done nothing illegal.)
The Jefferson Savings affair occurred four years before Jeb Bush met Padreda, and it is possible he missed earlier reports. But he could hardly have passed over the next batch of stories involving Padreda's questionable practices, because they were spread across the front pages of Miami's papers in 1985, just months before the two teamed up. These stories, in Jeb's hometown paper, alleged that Padreda had improperly influenced a local politician -- the Dade County manager, to be precise, who'd been made a secret partner when Padreda ran into trouble getting a parcel of land rezoned. The property was promptly rezoned, and the county official made a quick $127,000 profit when Padreda, in turn, "sold" it to an offshore Padreda partnership. That partnership was controlled from Panama by a fugitive Miami attorney, who had already been indicted for laundering drug money. (The official resigned, but Padreda was not charged in the case.)

Yet the 1985 scandal did not seem to lessen Jeb's enthusiasm for Camilo Padreda. Jeb enthusiastically accepted the task of finding tenants for Padreda's empty HUD-financed office building. Padreda, the government officials involved, and Jeb all refused to answer questions about the scandal. But of allegations that Padreda engaged in illegal behavior, there remains no doubt. In 1989, he pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded HUD of millions of dollars during the 1980s.
Jeb and Miguel Recarey
With Miami awash in empty office space in 1986, it was no small event when bagged International Medical Centers as a key tenant for Padreda's HUD-financed building. IMC, which leased nearly all the space in Padreda's vacant building, was at the time one of the nation's fastest-growing health-maintenance organizations (HMO) and had become the largest recipient of federal Medicare funds.
IMC was run by Cuban-American Miguel Recarey, a character with a host of idiosyncrasies. He carried a 9-mm Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol under his suit coat and kept a small arsenal of AR-15 and Uzi assault rifles at his Miami estate, where his bedroom was protected by bullet-proof windows and a steel door. It apparently wasn't his enemies Recarey feared so much as his friends. He had a long-standing relationship with Miami Mafia godfather Santo Trafficante, Jr., and had participated in the ill fated, CIA-inspired mob assassination plot against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s. (Associates of Recarey add that Trafficante was the money behind Recarey's business ventures.)

Recarey's brother, Jorge, also had ties to the CIA. So it was no surprise that IMC crawled with former spooks. Employee résumés were studded with references to the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Cuban Intelligence agency; there was even a fellow who claimed to have been a KGB agent, An agent with the U.S. Office of Labor Racketeering in Miami would later describe IMC as a company in which "a criminal enterprise interfaced with intelligence operations."
Recarey also surrounded himself with those who could influence the political system. He hired Jeb Bush as IMC's "real-estate consultant." Though Jeb would never close a single real-estate deal, his contract called for him to earn up to $250,000 (he actually received $75,000). Jeb's real value to Recarey was not in real estate but in his help in facilitating the largest HMO Medicare fraud in U.S. history.
Jeb phoned top Health and Human Services officials in Washington in 1985 to lobby for a special exemption from HHS rules for IMC. This highly unusual waiver was critical to Recarey's scam. Without it, the company would have been limited to a Medicare patient load of 50 percent. The balance of IMC's patients would have had to be private -- that is, paying -- customers. Recarey preferred the steady flow of federal Medicare money to the thought of actually running a real HMO. Former HHS chief of staff McClain Haddow (who later became a paid consultant to IMC) testified in 1987 Jeb that directly phoned then-HHS secretary Margaret Heckler and that it was that call that swung the decision to approve IMCs waiver.

Jeb admits lobbying HHS for the waiver, but denies talking to Secretary Heckler -- and denies as well the charge that his call won the HHS exemption. "I just asked that IMC get a fair hearing," said later. After the IMC scandal broke in 1987, Heckler left the country, having been appointed U.S. ambassador to Ireland, a post she held until 1989. (Heckler is now a private citizen living in Virginia. We left a detailed message with her secretary, outlining our questions, but she declined to respond.)
In any case, the highly unusual waiver by federal officials allowed IMCs Medicare patient load to swell -- to 80 percent -- and the money poured in. At its height in 1986, IMC was collecting over $30 million a month in Medicare payments; in all, the company would collect $1 billion from Medicare. (Jeb would not discuss the IMC affair with Mother Jones. But in an opinion piece he wrote for the Miami Herald last May, he insisted that he had worked hard for IMC, looking for real-estate deals, and had earned his $75,000 in commissions. While acknowledging making a telephone call to one of Heckler's assistants on IMC Is behalf, he claimed the waiver was not granted on his account. The allegation of a connection, Jeb wrote, "is unfair and untrue.")
Despite Jeb's involvement, trouble began brewing for IMC when a low-level HHS special agent in Miami, Leon Weinstein, discovered that Recarey was defrauding Medicare through overcharges, false invoicing, and outright embezzlement. Weinstein had been following Recarey's activities since 1977, and as early as 1983 he believed he had enough information to put together a case. However, he found his HHS superiors less than receptive; they took no action on Weinstein's information.
But Weinstein kept digging and in 1986 renewed his investigation of Recarey and IMC -- and again his HHS superiors blocked the probe. "Washington just refused to pursue my evidence," Weinstein, now retired, told Mother Jones last spring. "And they made it perfectly clear that I was not to pursue IMC. When I did, they threatened me and threatened my job."
Weinstein dug in his heels. "I had them this time. I told my superiors I would fight this time because I had nothing to fear. I had just reached retirement age. They immediately backtracked," he says. Weinstein was allowed to continue his investigation -- though HHS still took no formal action against Recarey. Eventually Weinstein turned to Congressmen Barney Frank (D-NY) and Pete Stark (D-CA) with his information, sparking congressional hearings into the scandal.
Had it been up to HHS, Recarey would still be running his Medicare racket. But by chance, the now-disbanded U.S. Miami Organized Crime Strike Force was also investigating Recarey. (Recarey was bribing union officials in order to get them to sign workers up as patients at IMC, apparently so that IMC could meet its reduced non-Medicare patient requirements of 20 percent.) "We didn't know anything about the HHS investigation," former Organized Crime Strike Force special attorney Joe DeMaria says. "Recarey was bribing union officials.... But HHS never contacted us or told us anything."

Before Recarey's trial on bribery charges began, DeMaria's investigators also caught Recarey using his former spooks to wiretap IMC employees in an effort to discover who was talking to federal agents. DeMaria had Recarey indicted a second time, for the illegal listening devices. During Recarey's trial on the bribery charge, a lawyer who handled the bribe money testified that the money IMC gave him was not bribe money but "commissions" he had earned while doing work for the company. "See, that commission thing was Recarey's MO. They didn't call them bribes, they called them commissions," DeMaria explains.
After he was convicted, Recarey resigned from IMC and was immediately replaced by John Ward. (Ward had been law partner to Reagan-Bush campaign manager John Sears. And Sears had also been a lobbyist for IMC.) But Recarey's Medicare scam would never get to a public courtroom airing. Before his trial on the wiretap charge, Recarey skipped the country. His getaway was remarkable: just in time for his flight, the normally tight-fisted IRS expedited a $2.2 million income-tax refund, which Recarey claimed he had coming.

The tax refund was a windfall for Recarey. "Yeah, that was his getaway money," says a former IRS investigator who worked in the Miami office at the time but asked not to be named. "Though there is a special IRS procedure to expedite tax refunds for companies in financial distress, I don't think you can overlook the possibility that there was influence from the administration."

Recarey's last act before becoming a fugitive was an attempt to wire $30,000 into the bank account of Washington consultant and lobbyist Nick Panuzio -- whose partner was then managing George Bush's 1988 presidential campaign. (The wire transfer failed only because, in his haste, Recarey had gotten Panuzio's account number wrong.) It was only after Recarey was safely out of the country that the U.S. attorney in Miami -- a political appointee -- filed formal charges of Medicare fraud against him.
Whistle-blower Leon Weinstein retired in disgust from HHS and tried to get the IMC case before a judge by filing a Qui Tam suit. Such suits allow a private citizen to sue to recover money for the government in return for a share of any settlement. In his case, Weinstein named IMC and Recarey as defendants. But HHS continued to fight Weinstein, first challenging his right to bring such a suit and later accusing him of stealing HHS documents before leaving his job. When the courts supported Weinstein, HHS then stepped in, took over his lawsuit, and shouldered him out. The case remains in the courts and is still unresolved.

HHS officials now pursuing the litigation claim that Recarey defrauded the Medicare system of at least $12 million. Leon Weinstein says the government is lowballing the loss and that Recarey's take from his IMC scam could easily be many times that figure.

Since skipping Miami in 1987, Recarey has been living comfortably in Caracas, Venezuela. Thomas Holladay, the consul general of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, told Mother Jones that officials there were aware of Recarey's presence and had formally requested his extradition. "We made a formal request for his extradition," Consul General Holladay says. "But we can't do anything until the Venezuelans turn him over to us, and they have not done that." The conversation then ended abruptly. "You know, I'm really not supposed to be talking to you about this," Holladay says.
In May, following inquiries from Mother Jones, Congressman Pete Stark, who sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, wrote to both the Department of Justice and the Venezuelan ambassador in Washington, demanding an explanation for six years of inaction on the Recarey case.

Jeb and the Contras
The fact that Recarey is living free in Caracas rather than in shackles at Fort Leavenworth could well be a result of the role IMC may have played in Oliver North's secret contra-supply network. Though members of the House Intelligence Committee claimed they found no reason to believe that Recarey was using IMC's Medicare facilities and funds to aid the contras, the evidence that IMC was involved remains compelling. In 1985, the same year that Jeb Bush was dialing for dollars to HHS officials for IMC, Jeb also hand-carried a letter from Guatemalan physician Dr. Mario Castejon to the White House -- directly to his father's office in the Executive Office Building. Dr. Castejon's letter to Vice President Bush requested U.S. medical aid for the contras. George Bush penned a note back to the doctor, referring him to Lt. Col. Oliver North -- whose pro-contra activities the president now claims he knew little about.
An entry in North's diary reads:

Medical Support System for wounded FDN in Miami -- HMO in Miami has oked to help all WIA [wounded in action] ... Felix Rodriguez.
(Rodriguez was a former CIA official who advised Vice-President Bush's national-security adviser, Donald Gregg, currently U.S. ambassador to South Korea.)
Veteran CIA operative Jose Basulto told the Wall Street Journal in 1987 that he had personally attended meetings at IMC headquarters in Miami along with contra leader Adolfo Calero and Felix Rodriguez. Basulto also said that he had personally brought sick and wounded contras to IMC hospitals in Miami, where they received free medical treatment.
Former HHS agent Leon Weinstein is not surprised that Recarey has not been returned to the United States. "My investigation," Weinstein says, "led me to conclude that there may have been a deliberate attempt to obstruct justice...because Recarey, his hospital, and his clinics were treating wounded contras from Nicaragua...and part of the $30 million a month he was given by the government to treat Medicare patients was used to set up field hospitals for the contras."

Jeb and "Manny" Diaz
Manuel C. Diaz, another Jeb Bush business associate, runs a commercial nursery with headquarters in Homestead, Florida. Manny Diaz's previous business sidekick, Charles Keating, Jr., is now sitting in a California prison. But during Keating's days at the helm of the $6 billion Lincoln Savings, Diaz became a Keating insider, confidant, and beneficiary. For example, in 1987, as federal regulators closed in on his crumbling empire, Keating instructed his attorneys to transfer a large chunk of prime Phoenix real estate to Diaz, for just $1. And right before filing for personal bankruptcy, Keating transferred his $2 million mansion on the island of Cat Cay in the Bahamas to Diaz.
At the same time Diaz was palling around with Keating, Jeb, then serving as Florida's secretary of commerce, arranged a private meeting for Diaz with Florida's Republican governor Bob Martinez. Promptly afterward, Diaz Farms landed a lucrative, $1.72 million, state-highway-landscaping contract -- despite the fact that Diaz had little prior highway-landscaping experience. This raised howls of protest and charges of political influence-peddling from other contractors. But state officials explained that the extraordinary speed in issuing the contract had occurred because the state was anxious to spruce up 113 miles of freeway for the coming visit of the pope.
Did Jeb know about Diaz's business association with Charles Keating? Did he have reason to believe Diaz was qualified for the Florida highway contract that he helped Diaz land? These are the kinds of detailed questions that the Florida chairman of the Bush re-election campaign refuses to answer.

Neil Bush
In the March/April issue of Mother Jones, I detailed Neil Bush's activities and therefore only sketch his involvement here. Neil served as a director of Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan in Denver, Colorado, from 1985 until 1988. During that time, the now-dead thrift made over $200 million in loans to Neil's two partners in JNB Exploration, Neil's abysmally unsuccessful oil company. Silverado's failure was due at least in part to the fact that Neil's two partners welshed on $132 million in loans.
Federal regulators determined that, while Silverado was pumping loans to Neil's two associates, Neil was completely dependent on the two men for his income. The failure of Silverado -- its closure delayed until after the 1988 election -- cost taxpayers about $1 billion. After almost two years of hand-wringing had passed, an expert hired by regulators declared that Neil suffered from an "ethical disability," and he was required to pay a $50,000 fine for his ethical lapses at Silverado. Neil's estimated $250,000 in legal bills generated by the scandal are reportedly being paid for him by a banking-industry lobbyist who is fighting to get banks deregulated.

After Silverado failed, Neil started a new oil company, Apex Energy. This time, his money came from a $2.35 million loan through a Small Business Administration program, a loan arranged by an old family friend. When news of this reached the press in March 1991, the SBA discovered that the companies through which the loan was approved were technically insolvent, and it gave them up to thirty months to "self-liquidate." This meant that Apex would have to repay its SBA-guaranteed loans. Neil took this as his cue to move on, and he left Apex -- and its debts -- for others to worry about. If Apex Energy can't be sold for more than it owes, the SBA, and ultimately the taxpayers, will be stuck with the difference. The last time we checked, Apex's only known asset was an oil lease, which the company had purchased from Neil for $150,000 before he bailed out. That means taxpayers could get stiffed for another $2.2 million as a result of Neil Bush's wheeling and dealing. The public won't learn the precise outcome until later this year, though. The SBA allowed thirty months for liquidation of the SBA investment in Apex, putting the resolution date just past the 1992 general election.
UPDATE: Neil Bush along with investors (Mother and Father) George HW and Barbara Bush, a Russian mobster and a Saudi Prince friend is the founder of IGNITE LEARNING! Taking advantage of his brother Bush 43’s NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT by collecting millions for his COW education programs!

President George HW Bush claims that only a return to traditional family values can cure the “poverty of spirit” that plagues places like our decaying inner cities. But after a closer look, particularly at his adult children, one cannot help but wonder about the values that matter to his own family.
Bush says he is proud of his sons. One of them rented himself out to a crooked developer who scammed HUD and helped pry millions out of Medicare to fuel a giant health-care scam. A second may have profited from an insider stock transaction in a gulf oil deal at the very time that U.S. soldiers were dying to make that region safe for oil. And the third son ran a savings and loan into the ground while shoveling millions of its taxpayer-backed dollars into the pockets of two deadbeat partners.
When President George HW Bush speaks of the lack of family values he, of course, is referring to broken marriages, single mothers, and inner-city kids who join gangs and sell dope. But are these the only villains – or the most important ones – responsible for the shredded social fabric? What about well-to-do white boys who trade on family connections, welsh on loans, run with con men, and leave financial ruin in their wake as they line their own pockets? What about grown men, with access to the most powerful public office in the land, who participate in scandal but show no remorse for any of it – and who take no responsibility for the consequences of their own actions?
It’s certainly reasonable for candidate Bush to engage the public in a discussion of family values, to use his office as a bully pulpit on modern morals. But what of George HW Bush’s inability or unwillingness to grasp the crisis of values festering within his own family? The pattern of behavior by the president’s three sons raises questions – about them and their father. These issues have yet to get the prime-time exposure of fictional Murphy Brown’s fictional fatherless child.
Stephen Pizzo is author of Inside Job: The Looting of America’s Savings and Loans.

Research assistance by Peter Willmert and Chris Rosché.

© 1992 Mother Jones
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.