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Ex-GOP boss’s lawyer is slapped by Florida Bar

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Damon Chase, a prominent Central Florida lawyer who represented former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, has been ordered to be reprimanded by the Florida Bar Board of Governors for failing to supervise an associate and also sending a potentially threatening email to a client.

Chase, of Lake Mary, also is required to attend the Bar’s Ethics School and send letters apologizing to the clients he apparently offended by his behavior in a complicated real estate case in 2010.

One of the letters will go to the sister of a client who, during  a meeting, asked him to stop reviewing email. He responded, “F— you,” according to the Florida Bar.

In its findings, made public Wednesday, the Bar concluded that Chase, “recognizes that his conduct has damaged the public’s perception of lawyers. (He also) has fully accepted responsibility for the misconduct and is not blaming others for what occurred. He has learned from this experience and has taken steps to ensure that he does not engage in similar misconduct in the future, such as educating himself as it relates to stress management and dealing with difficult personalities.”

Chase is an outspoken lawyer who dragged himself up from a youth marked by criminal arrests and generally bad conduct. He was an aggressive advocate for Greer, who is now serving an 18-month prison term for stealing $125,000 from the Florida Republican Party while serving as its chairman.

Greer was hand-picked to be party boss by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott next year. Greer pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of theft and one count of money laundering.

Florida Congressional Democrats seek federal probe of voting law

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida’s Democratic U.S. House members, including Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have asked the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold a hearing regarding Florida’s voting law that shrunk the number of early voting days, required more voters to cast provisional ballots and was intended to curb voter registration by outside groups.

The Democratic delegation asked for the hearing based on a report in The Palm Beach Post on Sunday that detailed how Republican Party of Florida consultants and staff sought to alter Florida’s early voting laws in the aftermath of the 2008 election to curb Democratic turnout.

“In light of these allegations, we are extremely concerned over the integrity of this law and the justification for its implementation,” U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Wasserman Schultz wrote to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chairman Martin Castro in a letter sent today. “As you know, trust in our democracy is what holds our country together. Voters must be able to trust that their elected officials are acting in their best interest.”

The commission held hearings in Florida in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 election and made numerous recommendations based on its findings, many of which were included in the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002.

State Dems slap Senate prez with ‘hall of fame’ honors

Thursday, December 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats said Thursday they’ve added a new honoree to their ‘Rickpublican’ hall of fame — Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

The Melbourne Republican gets the nod for recently acknowledging in a deposition that he tried to mislead a reporter months back when he was asked whether he agreed to give former Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer a lucrative severance package for leaving the party post. The deal fell apart, and Greer’s facing felony charges for allegedly directing thousands of dollars in party funds to an account he controlled.

“Backroom dealings and outright lies are a go-to in the Florida GOP playbook. While Haridopolos might not be able to remember much, he clearly hasn’t forgotten how to avoid the truth,” said Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux.

In the deposition taken by Greer lawyers last month, Haridopolos said he was  “not telling the whole story” when he described what he knew of  the severance.

Haridopolos is among the first to be enshrined in the ‘hall.’ But with eyes on next year’s election season, state Democrats unveiled the website www.rickpublicans.com  in October to taunt state Republicans by tying them to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose poll numbers have languished most of this year. 

 

Fla Dems’ spokesman moving on

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Three years of speaking on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, apparently is enough for Eric Jotkoff.

The state party spokesman said Friday that he plans to put aside his Blackberry for a while before moving onto the next opportunity. Jotkoff’s replacement is expected to be named Monday, said the departing spokesman, who plans to stay on another couple weeks.

Jotkoff served under two party chairs, Karen Thurman and her successor, Rod Smith. He also was a Smith spokesman when the former Alachua state senator ran for governor in 2006.

Quick with the quote, tweet or email, Jotkoff on Friday fondly recalled Democratic successes with the Obama campaign in Florida, and Republican missteps with disgraced former House Speaker Ray Sansom and criminally charged ex-GOP chairman Jim Greer.

“Over the next few weeks, I will be taking some time off to relax and recharge before announcing my future plans. I look forward to spending several weeks without having my Blackberry basically surgically attached to my hand because I won’t need to respond to the scandal de jour,” Jotkoff’s wrote in signing off.

 

Haridopolos’ early exit raises Greer cloud

Monday, July 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Sen. Mike Haridopolos’ abrupt departure from the Republican field prompted Florida Democrats to question whether it could be linked to his association with former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who faces six felony counts of grand theft, money laundering and attempted fraud involving a consulting company he formed in 2009 that drew $200,000 from the party.

Greer is suing the party to recover about $124,000 in severance, which party leaders say was never approved.  Haridopolos’ signature is on the severance, but the Senate president has denied approving a pay-out to the former party chief.

Tim Baker, a Haridopolos spokesman, denied any connection to the candidate’s folding his campaign, with $2.4 million in his war chest — and the Greer case.

But Haridopolos is expected to give a deposition in late August to Cheney Mason, one of Greer’s lawyers, who recently completed a lead role as defense attorney for Casey Anthony.

Damon Chase, a Lake Mary attorney also representing Greer, said Monday, “I think the timing is significant. He knows his deposition is coming up and it’s going to be a videotaped deposition that the press will have as soon as it’s finished. He knows it’s going to leave Florida voters thinking, ‘is this the kind of liar we want representing us in the Senate?” (more…)

Override urged for leadership funds

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

A House committee Friday urged lawmakers to override former Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto last year of legislation that would revive so-called leadership funds, strengthening the hand of House and Senate leaders from both parties in raising campaign cash.

The 11-4 vote by the State Affairs Committee broke on party lines, with Democrats opposed. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, were powerful advocates for the fund-raising accounts last year, but were snubbed by Crist.

The governor’s veto may have marked the beginning of his crumbling relationship with fellow Republicans, which concluded with him breaking with the party in April.

But Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said the legislation is needed to improve “transparency.”

“I think the bill is long overdue in our fund-raising process,” said McKeel.

Republican leaders pushed the legislation last spring amid a fund-raising scandal at the state Republican Party.

Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer, who had been ousted only a few months earlier, was accused of badly damaging the party’s finances with his freewheeling spending and side dealing, which included allegedly secretly earmarking a portion of party funds for himself.

Leadership funds were banned 20 years ago by Florida lawmakers following newspaper reports drawing links between legislation approved and cash flowing into accounts controlled by party leaders.

The new proposal would allow legislative leaders from both parties to continue raising unlimited amounts of campaign cash. But instead of pouring the funds into the state party, they would maintain control.

Supporters, though, said the new step will result in more disclosure, because the leadership funds would be subject to campaign reporting requirements.

Ben Wilcox, of the League of Women Voters, disagreed. He testified Friday that reinstating the funds would feed a “pay to play,” environment in the Legislature.

No longer called leadership funds, the accounts would be dubbed “affiliated party committees,” under the measure (CS/HB 1207).

(more…)

Former statewide prosecutor Shepherd joins Holland & Knight in West Palm Beach

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 by George Bennett

Shepherd

Former statewide prosecutor William Shepherd, who headed the investigation that led to last year’s indictment of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, is joining the West Palm Beach office of Holland & Knight as a partner in the megafirm’s national white-collar defense team.

Greer

Shepherd worked seven years in the Florida attorney general’s office, the last four as statewide prosecutor, where he oversaw a team of about 40 attorneys. The attorney general appoints the statewide prosecutor to a four-year term from a list of nominees selected by the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Committee. Shepherd was tapped by former AG Bill McCollum.

In addition to the Greer case, Shepherd handled high-profile prosecution of gang members and mortgage fraud cases. He also helped former state Sen. (now Chief Financial Officer) Jeff Atwater and state Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, craft anti-gang legislation.

Judge tosses Jim Greer’s lawsuit against Florida GOP

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett

Greer

From the Associated Press….

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Florida Republican Party by its ousted former chairman.

Circuit Judge Alan Dickey granted the party’s motion to dismiss Jim Greer’s suit Tuesday in Sanford. Greer had accused the party of reneging on a $123,000 severance deal.

The party’s executive director, Ronnie Whitaker, issued a statement saying Dickey saw through Greer’s attempt to sue the GOP while refusing to answer questions under oath by citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Greer, meanwhile, is facing criminal charges stemming from his tenure as party chairman including theft, organized fraud and money laundering.

UPDATE: State GOP audit reveals lavish spending by former party chief

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Gov. Charlie Crist had this to say about the RPOF audit released today:
“I went to Disney World with my wife and my two stepdaughters and we paid for it ourselves.”

An audit of state GOP spending revealed that former party chief Jim Greer spent tens of thousands of dollars on lavish hotel rooms and trips unrelated to official business, including more than $5,000 on costs associated with his son’s baptism.

The audit, released to the public today, also found that the Republican Party of Florida picked up a $13,435.59 tab for a personal trip to Disney World Greer and his family took with Gov. Charlie Crist and his wife Carole and possibly her two daughters in June 2009.

Crist, who left the Republican Party this spring to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race, said earlier this week he had no idea about possible misspending on travel after Thrasher threatened to take Crist to court to recoup the money if Crist didn’t repay it.

But the audit showed that Crist and his wife and the Greers spent more than $13,000 on a personal holiday at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Hotel.

Greer also charged $10,992.17 on his RPOF-issued American Express card for three personal vacations to Fisher Island, including one in which Crist participated, the audit found. Carole Crist owns a home on the exclusive enclave.

Crist’s campaign responded with a statement demanding that his opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, release all of his credit card statements prior to the dates covered in the audit.

“Republican party bosses engaging in smear tactics to cover-up the wrongdoing of their own nominee? Shocking. Now that the bosses have ended their partisan charade, they must immediately release all of Marco Rubio’s credit card records dating back to when he was Speaker-Designate to determine the extent to which he charged the party for personal expenses like family reunions and real estate payments,” Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in an e-mail.
(more…)

Indicted ex-GOP boss Greer assails ‘racist views’ in party, won’t name names

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 by George Bennett

Greer

Greer

Remember Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer’s denunciation last year of President Obama’s national address to school children? Greer said he was “appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

Since then, Greer’s been ousted as party chairman and indicted on six felony counts.

Monday, as Obama prepared another address to students, Greer said he’s learned that “many within the GOP have racist views.” He blamed his heated 2009 statement on an attempt “to placate the extremists who dominate our Party today.”

Greer declined to name any of the racists he was trying to placate.

“No names, but committee consists of people who fought me on outreach and I had to discipline state members who promoted racists (sic) comments which I was also fought on too,” Greer said via text message.

(more…)

Crist on travel charges: ‘I don’t know what they’re talking about’

Monday, September 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist says he’s in the dark about state GOP leaders’ demands that he pay them back for travel expenses unassociated with party business.

“It’s the typical political season stuff that we’re going to see. I think it’s sad and just indicates how partisanship gets in the way,” Crist told reporters this morning after a memorial service for missing children at the Capitol.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman John Thrasher threatened Friday to sue Crist and Jim Greer, Crist’s hand-picked party chairman, to get reimbursed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel costs. The expenses in question were charged to Greer and former party executive director Delmar Johnson. Crist did not have one of the party American Express cards in question.

Greer resigned in January and was charged in June with fraud, theft and money laundering for his alleged misuse of party money. Greer has pleaded not guilty. Greer maintains he is innocent.

Thrasher and other GOP leaders huddled for hours over an internal audit Friday at their annual meeting in Orlando but refused to release the audit to the public. Thrasher, a former House Speaker who is also a state
senator from St. Augustine, said he may take Crist, Greer and Johnson to court to get the money back.

“I don’t even know what they’re talking about. As you know, they haven’t been transparent. They haven’t
released any of the report. So it’s hard to even know what they’re talking about,” Crist said.

Crist, who abandoned the GOP this spring to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Democrat, said Thrasher has not asked him for reimbursement of the alleged charges.

“We don’t even know what they are. Neither do you. They won’t show us the report,” Crist said.

State GOP called ‘disingenous,’ accused of ‘political grandstanding’ over audit

Saturday, September 11th, 2010 by George Bennett

The Republican Party of Florida’s statement that it is considering legal action to recover “inappropriate expenses” by Gov. Charlie Crist, former Chairman Jim Greer and former executive director Delmar Johnson was blasted by spokesmen for all three today.

The party says it is considering litigation based on an audit that it wouldn’t release. Click here to read the whole story.

Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner accused the GOP of “political games” to undermine Crist, who left the GOP in April to pursue a no-party Senate bid.

Greer attorney Damon Chase accused the party of “blatant political grandstanding….They’re going after the three guys they don’t like.”

Johnson’s attorney, Bob Leventhal, said: “It’s quite disingenuous of them to make comments and not release the report…Mr. Johnson would love for them to release the audit.”

State GOP mulls legal action to recover ‘inappropriate expenses’ by Crist, Greer, former aide

Saturday, September 11th, 2010 by George Bennett

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Republican Party of Florida leaders today said they might pursue legal action to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in “inappropriate expenses” by Gov. Charlie Crist, his hand-picked former GOP chairman and a former top party aide between 2007 and 2009.

State GOP Chairman John Thrasher made the announcement after he and the party’s executive board spent three hours reviewing an audit of party finances while Jim Greer was chairman.

Crist’s campaign spokesman accused the GOP of playing “the same old political games” against Crist, who left the party in April to pursue an independent Senate bid.

The expenses, largely travel-related, were put on the American Express cards of Greer and former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson, but many of them benefited Crist, Thrasher said.

Read the RPOF statement after the jump…

(more…)

Crist woos Dems, won’t answer caucus question, explains Greer refund

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by George Bennett

COCONUT CREEK — Republican-turned-independent Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist courted Democratic voters this morning — but wouldn’t say whether he’d align with Democrats or the GOP if he’s elected in November.

“I’m not answering that question, because I’ve said that I will caucus with the people of Florida,” Crist told reporters after speaking to a crowd of about 500 at the heavily Democratic Wynmoor retirement community.

Crist was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Ari Porth, who has endorsed him. Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring and Republican Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti were also on hand, but said they have not made endorsements.

(more…)

Crist on CNN: Obama ‘doing everything he can’ on spill; Greer arrest ‘unfortunate’

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 by George Bennett

Gov. Charlie Crist will appear on CNN’s John King, USA tonight and discuss the gulf oil spill.

Asked about President Obama’s response, Crist says, “Well, I think the president is doing everything he can. You know, from my perspective, he’s been here a number of times. I’m sure he’ll continue to come back, that’s important for the administration to do. And they’re doing daily phone calls with the governors in the affected area.

“You know, it has to be all hands on deck, we have to be working together, we have to work together in order to try to stem the tide of what we’re dealing with here. I don’t think it’s the time to be pointing fingers, I think it’s a time for us to come together, work together and do everything we can to protect the Gulf states and in my case, Florida.”

Crist also addresses the arrest of former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer at the end of the show.

Read the full transcript after the jump…

(more…)

Reports: former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer arrested

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 by George Bennett
Greer

Greer

Read indictment of Jim Greer

Gannett and the Orlando Sentinel and others are reporting that lavish-spending former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer was arrested this morning in Orlando.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has slated a news conference in Orlando at 11:30 a.m. that we’ll be monitoring.

In the meantime, an apparent mug shot of Greer is already on the Internet.

GOP leaders oust former chairman Greer from leadership roles

Friday, April 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Greer: fears socialist indoctrination in Obama speech

Greer: fears socialist indoctrination in Obama speech


The Republican Party of Florida essentially kicked former Chairman Jim Greer out of the party today, stripping him of everything but his voter registration card.

Greer’s successor, Sen. John Thrasher, removed Greer from all offices Greer held at a secret meeting in Tallahassee today.

The RPOF executive board unanimously supported Thrasher’s decision, Thrasher said in a statement.

Greer’s ouster from the party comes amid a federal investigation into the past chairman and other former high-ranking GOP officials and their credit card spending.
Greer filed suit today against the party last week, accusing the GOP of reneging on almost $124,000 he says the party owes him in severance pay.

“Based on the information that has come to light during the recent Party audit, I have determined that Mr. Greer has engaged in activities that have injured the name and status of the Republican Party of Florida, and has grossly interfered with the activities of the Republican Party,” Thrasher said in the statement.

Greer sued the GOP for allegedly reneging on almost $124,000 he says the party owes him in severance pay. He also accused the party in the lawsuit of offering him $200,000 in hush money, which RPOF officials deny.

Thrasher ordered an audit of the spending under Greer, and Gov. Charlie Crist, who hand-picked Greer to head the party after his 2006 election, asked federal investigators to launch an inquiry into possible misspending.

RPOF Chairman Thrasher on Crist, credit cards and condemnation

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Sen. John Thrasher, chairman of the maligned Republican Party of Florida, has a lot to contend with.

Things are heating up in the legislature with less than 10 days to go before the session’s end.

Federal investigators are snooping around former high-ranking GOP officials, including his predecessor at the Party Jim Greer, and their credit card spending.

And Gov. Charlie Crist is considering abandoning the party that helped him to victory in the state Senate, two Cabinet seats and the governor’s mansion.

Crist’s consideration of dropping out of the GOP primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio and running as an independent in the fall has Crist’s former allies (and those who weren’t big fans of the governor to begin with) coming out in droves to distance themselves from the former sure-bet for U.S. Senate.

Thrasher offered some advice to Crist’s critics, including House Speaker Larry Cretul: Chill.
(more…)

Crist seeks federal investigation into state GOP

Monday, April 5th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist officially asked for a federal investigation into possible wrongdoing at the Republican Party of Florida today.

Crist asked U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirwin, located in Tallahassee, to look into misspending at the state party under Crist’s hand-picked chairman, Jim Greer, who was forced out of his position earlier this year.

“The alleged conduct appears to raise a number of federal law issues, including but not limited to potential credit card abuses and financial irregularities that may have IRS implications,” Crist wrote in a letter to Kirwin today.

(more…)

Greer predecessor Jordan on GOP AmEx spree: “Nobody had carte blanche” when I was in charge

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by George Bennett

TALLAHASSEE — Former Republican Party of Florida Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan said the GOP issued American Express cards to top officials while she was at the helm from January 2003 to January 2007, but “we were very careful. We set up a lot of business procedures….Nobody had carte blanche.”

The party made about $3.1 million in American Express payments during the four years Jordan was chairwoman. During the three years her successor Jim Greer was in charge, the party’s AmEx bills topped $3.8 million. Greer stepped down last month in part because of controversy over his lavish spending.

Jordan, now the tax collector of Indian River County, is in town for a Republican women’s conference. Asked her opinion of the American Express spending under Greer, she paused briefly, then said: “It’s over. We need to move on. I’m very excited to see Speaker/Sen./Chairman (John) Thrasher running the party.”

(more…)

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