Columns

Suck It Up, Charlie: It's Answer Time

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: February 7, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist

Did anybody notice what just happened in a South Florida courtroom? I have to wonder, because where's Charlie Crist to answer the questions?

How does he duck out of the bright lights and the thousand questions? In the face of accusations of wrongdoing, Chris Christie, Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich -- they all had to fight their way through a merciless media feeding frenzy.

Not Charlie.

Scott Rothstein, perpetrator of a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, is taken from federal prison to the courtroom, testifies the former governor traded judgeships for campaign contributions -- judgeships for campaign contributions -- and next morning when the grit hits the media fan, what happens? Out comes Dan Gelber, his lawyer-campaign spokesman, to explain it away.

Not Charlie, just Gelber.

“It was a 'quid pro quo' with the governor,” Rothstein said under oath.

Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith

Gelber, a former Democratic state senator and one of Charlie's newest confidantes, blew off the testimony of former Fort Lauderdale attorney Rothstein as a load of old hooey.

“There’s nothing even remotely credible about what (Rothstein's) saying and it’s clearly being said just to elevate his own warped self-importance,” said Gelber. He called Rothstein "the Hannibal Lechter of liars."

But there are a few problems with Gelber's defense.

First, Gelber can speak as Charlie's lawyer but as a confidante, not really. He was nowhere near Charlie's inner circle in 2007, 2008 or 2009, when the governor was rolling in the hay with Rothstein and his wealthy contributor friends and clients, attending Rothstein's wedding, accepting the $52,000 birthday cake Rothstein gave him in 2008, taking trips with Rothstein and pals in the Ponzi schemer's private jet. He and Charlie were a party apart back then.

Second, William Scherer, lead lawyer in the recovery efforts of Rothstein victims, said on camera Rothstein wasn't bringing up anything new, that he's been telling the court of his "quid pro quo" arrangement since he first went to trial. See Scherer's TV interview. If Rothstein is lying, he's been telling the same lie for more than three years. This is the first time anyone's been listening.

Third, asked if he put any of this in writing at the time, Rothstein said he did “to one of his [Crist’s] assistants.” Though he didn’t specify who that was, we have the starting point for an investigation right there.

Where's Charlie?

True, he's on a national book tour at the moment. But in this day and age, there's Skype. What's stopping him from meeting the press from his hotel room in New York or Los Angeles with the whole entourage traveling with him if he wants, providing a statement and taking questions?

The longer he waits to air it out, the more difficult his campaign to regain the governor's office.

He has just lost one of the major strategies in his campaign against incumbent Gov. Rick Scott: ethics.

The day before all hell broke loose in that federal courtroom, Charlie sat down with FOX’s Bill O’Reilly to talk about his book and said he was going to make “ethics” a centerpiece of the campaign.

He told capital reporters and editors virtually the same thing six days earlier at an AP media event in Tallahassee. Scott is all about corruption; Charlie is all about straight-shooting. "When I ask people to support me, the only thing they get is a thank-you card," he told the press.

He might have to go back to the drawing board on that centerpiece campaign strategy.

In spite of his 4- to 7-point lead in the polls right now, Charlie always did walk a rocky road to election. A new Democrat, a party flip-flopper without an ideology, he isn't embraced by all in his new party.

Rothstein's revelation will hurt Charlie. In one day the news has gone viral nationally. Will the hurt go away like a bruise on the knee? Will it cost him the Florida election? Will it finish his political career? Or worse, could federal investigators pursue a corruption case against him?

Whatever the future holds, Charlie can't stay out-of-state forever. He might want to consider wrapping up the book tour early and coming back to face the music.
                                                                               
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For one reason or another, some governors find themselves on the wrong side of ethically challenging situations once they reach office.

It isn't just former Govs. Eliot Spitzer of New York and Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, mentioned above, who ran afoul of the law.

Here are some others you might have forgotten about, men -- no women, incidentally -- who went from public servant to public enemy:

John G. Rowland: In 2004, after nine years in office, the Republican governor of Connecticut resigned during a corruption investigation, and later pleaded guilty in federal court to a one-count indictment for conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, mail fraud and tax fraud. He served 15 months in a federal prison.

Jim Guy Tucker: The Arkansas Democrat resigned in July 1996 after he was convicted of two felony charges related to the Whitewater investigations. He was sentenced to 18 months home confinement as part of a four-year probationary term.

Fife Symington: The Arizona Republican left office in 1997 and was sentenced to 2½ years in prison after being convicted of lying to lending institutions to get loans to shore up his real estate empire. The federal bank fraud and wire fraud convictions were later overturned.

Ray Blanton: This Tennessee Democrat, accused of selling pardons to those convicted of crimes, quit with just three days left in his term in 1979. He was acquitted of those charges, but later convicted of extortion and conspiracy. He served two years of a three-year sentence.

Marvin Mandel: The Maryland Democrat resigned in 1977 after he was convicted of racketeering and mail fraud for accepting $350,000 in gifts to influence legislation that would have benefited horse racing. He served 19 months of a four-year sentence before President Ronald Reagan commuted his sentence in 1981. Six years later, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

David Hall: This Oklahoma Democrat was indicted by a federal grand jury three days after leaving office in 1975. He later served 19 months of a three-year sentence for extortion and conspiracy.


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


Comments (17)

Tyler Barrett
5:11PM FEB 9TH 2014
Nan Rich has my vote! She has been in the same party, working in the state for 12 years. She is the former senate minority leader. she is the only progressive in the race. I will never vote for Charlie. He is out for himself. A vote for Charlie is a vote for Rick Scott because they are one in the same!
#StandWithNan
ctaylor
3:34PM FEB 7TH 2014
Scott Rothstein, AK Desai, Jim Greer, Alan Mendelsohn, Gary Kompothecras and Lou Pearlman. Wait! I'm just getting started. Charlie Crist is the most ethically challenged, money sucking airhead to ever hit a governor's mansion - and yes, he has some stiff competition.
Mark
2:07PM FEB 7TH 2014
Interesting to read the comments but no one, including me, have named an alternative candidate! It's obvious that many do not like,trust, or favor either Crist or the incumbant, so what are we to do?If we keep Scott, it's more of the same nonsense of him filling his, and friends' pockets (especially since this would be his last term) or elect Crist and only God knows what would happen! If anyone has a bright light to share, please, show us the way!
JOE KREPS
12:38PM FEB 8TH 2014
Nan Rich is the only candidate that really cares about the people of Florida and she can't be bought. She will work hard for the people of Florida, not the corrupt lawyers and banksters.
Joel
2:34PM FEB 7TH 2014
Florida is doing well under Rick Scott. He isn't perfect, but he stays focused on moving the state forward, which Charlie Crist never did. Charlie focused on Charlie. I like the progress we've made since 2010.
JOE KREPS
12:40PM FEB 8TH 2014
Scott and Crist are birds of a feather. Corrupt to the core.
Interesting thonghts
12:33PM FEB 7TH 2014
It was Governor Charlie Crist who petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for a Grand Jury Investigation. They refused until Crist agreed to exempt Central Florida from the inquiry. After several Broward County residents kept demanding the Florida 19th Statewide Grand Jury was authorized as long as they didn't look into any of the corruption in Central Florida!

So now if Charlie is elected governor once again how will be govern Florida? Is he the enemy of the South Florida circle of Corruption? And is he the friend of the Central Florida mobsters for whom he agreed to just turn his head? Interesting! How can he be the governor to all of Florida when he protected some and threw the others under the bus?
Correction Mark
12:24PM FEB 7TH 2014
Mark
8:26AM FEB 7TH 2014

@ "Charlie lost to Scott" MARK - CharLIE did not lose to Scott!! It was Bill McCollum the only GOP candidate authorized by GOP Chairman Jim Greer to run for Governor of Florida in 2010!!!

Charlie walked at 4 years in the Governor's office and ran for US Senate first as a Repub - then changed to Independent and lost to Rubio and (the democrat)
Fran k
10:10AM FEB 7TH 2014
Crist is a professional politician and that alone should preclude him from being elected. We need statesmen in there, not these perpetual professional politicians. I know that I will not be voting for him nor anyone in my realm of influence.

Like someone here so perfectly stated, "How anyone could vote for this guy is beyond me." Those that do are either uninfomed or just plain stupid.
Mark
9:26AM FEB 7TH 2014
Once again, another great piece of writing! Because of items covered here and elsewhere, I remain very concerned about the Governor's election and who will be the people's choice. I'm concerned because looking around, there sure isn't much to choose from. Charlie lost to Scott because Scott was a newcomer loaded with garbage promises. I say garbage because in the end, all the promises were dumped. Now, faced with tough choices just who will the people vote for? A liar, or a liar?
Harold Monoginslogin
9:10AM FEB 7TH 2014
Well first, Rothstein? Really? This guy would say and do anything for press and to help reduce his sentence. Nobody is going to believe him and the examples you gave to other Governor's issues are pathetic. Charlie will win! Why, because people like him and don't like Scott. And it comes down to that!! My sources tell me Adam Putnam enters the race in June when Scott's numbers are still bad!!
David Leeman
8:36AM FEB 7TH 2014
How anyone could vote for this guy is beyond me.
Barney Bishop III
7:45AM FEB 7TH 2014
Nancy, you hit the proverbial nail on the head...Charlie making ethics a centerpiece of his campaign is without question stupid...and Gelber's response is without question weak because Charlie isn't willing to deny the charges himself - at least yet...this is a HUGE mistake because this will not go away in the conservative media...the only real question in my mind is how seriuously will the mainstream left-wing media report this tory - and how much deeper will they drill down to do an investigative piece...

Unfortunately for Charlie this is like him suggesting that Governor Scott is beholden to major contributors when it was Charlie who "played" with his then-close freinds like Rothstein, Jim Greer, Mendelsohn, etc...Charlie has a whole Gang that has gone to prison for unlawful conduct that Charlie either permitted to happen or didn't care if it was going on...Sorry Charlie - you're guilt too!
Harold Monoginslogin
9:15AM FEB 7TH 2014
Oh Barney you are so out of touch, you need to retire. Conservative media?? Please tell me who and where they are, certainly not in Florida!! The press despises Scott and this issue will not go anywhere, wiling to bet you lunch at Governor's Club!!
andrew
12:44PM FEB 7TH 2014
Sunshine State News
frank massaro
7:30AM FEB 7TH 2014
interesting stuff......
frank massaro
7:29AM FEB 7TH 2014
interesting stuff.....

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