Follow the money and you’ll find corrupt politicians

In light of the recent allegations of misspending and the criminal charges levied against former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, the spending of donor monies by those in charge of handling it has become fodder for public criticisms and anger. Greer was charged with several criminal violations for diverting Party funds to a private fundraising company from which he financially benefitted. He was also accused of using Party funds for his own personal expenses.

Charlie Crist, Jim Greer, Mike Fassano all play money games

By Scott Factor

In light of the recent allegations of misspending and the criminal charges levied against former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, the spending of donor monies by those in charge of handling it has become fodder for public criticisms and anger. Greer was charged with several criminal violations for diverting Party funds to a private fundraising company from which he financially benefitted. He was also accused of using Party funds for his own personal expenses.

If Greer is convicted and sent to prison, it can be said that his only mistake was that he committed his dirty deeds incorrectly. Basically, had he gone about this a different way, he would have been clear of any legal wrangling and free to spend the money as he chooses. All he had to do was set up a federal 527 political committee, and he would have had a license to steal.

These committees allow people to raise money and use it for political causes, with little to no regulation. Donors give and the owners of these 527’s spend as they choose without limits.  You may think, “Who cares? If the donors are foolish enough to give, they deserve what they get”.  The problem is, the spending isn’t regulated at all. This allows the owner of the 527 to use money for “expenses” and take as many contributions as they want from anybody that wants to give them. Looking at it from the outside, it can appear to take on all the signatures of a legal system of bribery.

Let’s consider the State House, District 45 race. One of the candidates in this race, Richard Cocoran, is the recipient of some goodwill on behalf of one of these 527’s.  A group called Committee to Protect Florida, which is led by Republican political operative Roger “Rocky” Pennington of Southern Campaign Resources, has been sending out mailers that support Corcoran.  Why would Pennington’s group do this?  It’s simple…they were paid to do it.

Pennington’s group received payment in the form of a “donation” from Corcoran’s main supporter, Mike Fasano, or so it appears. The “donation” was in the form of a check from Fasano’s very own 527 group, Floridians for Principled Government. The amount of the “donation”? A whopping $50,000!

The question in my mind is why Fasano feels so strongly about Corcoran that he has to spend all of that money to try his very best to discredit Corcoran’s opponents and get him elected to office. Could this be linked in any way to Charlie Crist? 

Keep in mind that one of Crist’s biggest supporters, a Republican that has endured much attention and criticism for his support of the Governor, is Mike Fasano. This is no secret. What is a secret is how Charlie Crist got the information about Marco Rubio’s credit card expenditures to use against him in a public smear campaign. Let’s explore the ties.

When Rubio was Speaker of the House, guess who his $175,000 annual salaried Chief of Staff was? Richard Corcoran.  But Corcoran himself has questionable expenses on the Republican Party cards….Among those expenses are self-help books to hand out to legislators such as Getting Past No and Good to Great; $1,600 to frame inspirational quotes by former Gov. Jeb Bush; and $1,200 for inscribed wooden chairs for Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff. There appears to be a pattern developing here?

Party credit cards are not the only things paying for expenses deemed appropriate by the big spending politicians that control them. Looking past the Party credit cards are the outrageous expenses incurred by some of these 527’s.

State Senator Mike Fasano’s very own political group, Floridians for Principled Government, is a good case study in what’s wrong with this system. Now, keep in mind that the law doesn’t require much justification for what these groups spend or how they spend it. However, they do have to keep track of who donates and who is paid. 

Fasano’s group has collected large sums from big sugar interests (Governor Crist’s friends) and the Florida Police Benevolent Association. What’s more interesting is what Fasano himself was paid from his own group. Since 2005, Fasano’s own group, Floridians for Principled Government reimbursed Mike Fasano himself $41,683 for expenditures. 

So, to recap, big sugar money (Crist) donates to the Fasano 527 group, which pays another group to run an ad for someone who could have given information to Crist for his campaign. That same group paid out money to the guy who runs it and directed the other payouts. It’s all legal. Money changing hands with virtually no limits or regulations. Doesn’t quite seem right does it?

Mike Fasano has a loyal following of Republican supporters, most of which following was earned through strong service to his constituents. Does this service excuse these hide-and-seek games with donor money? Does this service excuse his support of a guy who spent lavishly on Party credit cards?

Does this type of behavior deserve your continued support of him and those he tries to place in office for his own benefit? It’s time for a gut check. It’s time to vote your conscience clear. It’s time to end your support of Fasano and his political money games.  

A Floridian, Scott Factor is a graduate of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. and earned his M.B.A. at St. Leo University. He writes conservative rants focusing on the national political landscape. E-mail him at: scott.factor@yahoo.com.

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