Monday, July 30, 2012

Florida: Also Known As South Fitzwalkerstan

A friend and faithful reader of Cog Dis alerted me to this article in Salon, which reports of a former Floridian GOP leader who is turning on his former friends and discussing the rampant voter suppression in that state and how it's directed at African Americans. But one thing, which I have emphasized in the following excerpt, really caught my eye:
In the deposition, released to the press yesterday, Greer mentioned a December 2009 meeting with party officials. “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He also said party officials discussed how “minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” according to the AP.

The comments, if true (he is facing felony corruption charges and has an interest in scorning his party), would confirm what critics have long suspected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is currently facing inquiries from the Justice Department and pressure from civil rights groups over his purging of voter rolls in the state, an effort that critics say has disproportionately targeted minorities and other Democratic voters. One group suing the state claims up to 87 percent of the voters purged from the rolls so far have been people of color, though other estimates place that number far lower. Scott has defended the purge, even though he was erroneously listed as dead himself on the rolls in 2006.
Like I said, that got my interest piqued so I followed the story back to the Tampa Bay Times, which originally reported on Greer's statements. When I read the article, I felt like I had stepped through the looking glass into a parallel Fitzwalkerstan.

After going through the accusations of racially motivated voter suppression, I saw this:
Greer said he warned others at the party that the budget committee was made up of "whack-a-do, right-wing crazies'' who were trying to take over because of continuing disagreements with Crist and legislative leaders. House and Senate leaders insisted that no one at the party could control their campaign finances. "We eat what we kill,'' Greer said the leaders told him. "Legislative leaders were using their party credit cards like drunken sailors and they made it clear to me I was not to interfere with their spending,'' Greer said.
Intrigued I read further and what I read was so eerily familiar that it felt surreal:
Thrasher said party officials had no choice but to get rid of Greer once they discovered he had secretly created a company that was getting money from the party.

Many of the questions posed to Greer were about his creation of Victory Strategies LLC, a company that collected almost $200,000 from the party while he was running it. The criminal charges stem from that contract.

Greer's animosity was evident on almost every page of the deposition as he described the inner workings of a party that has controlled Florida since 1998.


Greer said party officials were questioning spending on fundraising trips to New York, Yankees games, limos, expensive cigars and other items when Gonzalez asked him if he had any ownership in Victory Strategies. Greer said he initially denied owning any interest in the company but later admitted it when he and Gonzalez were alone. Gonzalez told state investigators that Greer did not own up to his involvement in the business and threatened to sue anyone who made the accusation. A number of other party officials told state investigators they were unaware of Greer's involvement in the company. Contacted this week, Gonzalez said he could not publicly discuss the case.

Asked about his failure to tell other officials, Greer said they didn't ask.

Asked if he told party finance chairman John Rood, a Jacksonville businessman, Greer said Rood was "basically useless as finance chairman.''

By late December 2009, Greer found himself under pressure to resign. He said he agreed to leave for the "betterment of the party'' and in January 2010 signed a severance agreement that was to pay him the rest of his $130,000 for the year.

Greer said he got concerned when Haridopolos and Thrasher, who had both signed the agreement, began to publicly deny knowledge of it. Haridopolos later admitted signing it, insisting he had not read it.

"Around the party most people considered President Haridopolos to be not the brightest person, but I would assume he would have read the agreement before he signed it,'' Greer said.

Greer had good words only for House Speaker Dean Cannon, saying the Orlando Republican tried to get others to live up to the severance agreement and promised to help him find a lobbying job and clients.

After others at the party refused to honor the severance agreement, Greer said Cannon and Haridopolos contacted his friend Jim Stelling to say that political consultants Pat Bainter and Marc Reicheldfer were going to pay Greer $200,000.

Despite promises of payment and a request from Bainter for information on where to wire the money, none was ever paid, Greer said. After he left the party, Greer said he heard that Thrasher was telling people they were going to have him arrested. A short time later, Greer was indicted by a statewide grand jury on charges of money laundering and fraud.

The charges and the party's failure to pay him have ruined his life, Greer said.

"They took everything I worked for my whole life,'' he added. Now his family is on food stamps, some of his possessions have been repossessed and his children watched their father being arrested.

"Any good thing I did at the Republican Party has been destroyed by these people,'' he said. "I want my life back. I want them to say they are sorry for what they did to me.''
Did you see it?

Now, gentle reader, I want you to reread that above passage, but this time, instead of Greer, think of Tim Russell. And instead of Victory Strategies, think about Operation Freedom and his ersatz web business.

Now do you see what I mean?

Both states have a corrupt, hateful governor. Both states have a Republican legislature that is out of control. Both states have a scandal where a useful tool suddenly becomes expendable and is suddenly facing corruption charges stemming from 2010.

At first I was blown away by he coincidences.

Then, as suddenly as I had the first thought, a second thought struck. I simply attributed the coincidences to Republicans being the incompetent, corrupt weasels that they are.

But as soon as I had that thought, I had a third one. There are too many similarities for this to be purely coincidental. And while it's tempting to believe that all Republicans are corrupt, greedy assholes, that's simply not true. There is still one or two good ones out there. Somewhere.

But there is another commonality between these two states, as well as many others, such as Texas, Ohio, Alaska, Michigan and Arizona. For a lack of a better term, let's call it the ALEC Factor.

ALEC has been a driving force behind much of the legislation in several states and on the federal level. The objective of these ALEC laws are the same: suppress people's rights, especially those of minorities and women; make things much more beneficial and tilted towards corporations; and rigging the system so that the Republicans could maintain control as the corporations pillaged the lands and exploited the people.

The dark overlords executing these Machiavellian machinations also hand-picked their personnel, like Rick Scott and Scott Walker, to carry out their plans. which is why there is such a striking resemblance, behaviorally and mentally, between the whole lot of them. This base mindset then opens the doors to problems like we're seeing in the Fitzwalkerstans.

Given these facts, it would not require a great leap of faith to believe that these masterminds saw these problems arising, figured out a solution - which included throwing one of theirs under the bus - and implemented this solution. I would not be surprised if we find similar stories in other states.

I recognize this sounds rather conspiratorial, but it does fit the Powell Memo remarkably close.  What other rational explanation is there for such similar stories being carried out in different states at the same time?

1 comment:

  1. The idea of voter suppression goes back a long way, being used especially in the Jim Crow-era South. Nixon used the "Southern Strategy" for his 1972 campaign, aimed at capturing votes from conservative Dixiecrats. The Republican Party was changing then, and institutions were being formed to reflect those changes--among them, the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Paul Weyrich helped found both organizations and would later be imfamously quoted for admitting that limiting the number of voters was in the best interests of their party: see
    Voter ID laws were passed in Florida and Wisconsin in 2011. The Voter ID laws have been linked to model legislation ALEC has spread since 2009; the push for voter ID laws has been linked to lawyers who worked for the Bush-Cheney 2004 election team.
    The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau has found that 20 percent of Wisconsin’s residents do not now have the identification required to vote. That includes 70 percent of African-Americans under the age of 25, 177,000 elderly people, 36 percent of young voters, and approximately 224,000 college students whose student ID cards fail to meet their state’s new ID requirement.
    In Milwaukee, many African-Americans live without ID, for many reasons. That can prevent a lot of people from voting. Studies have shown that African-Americans vote strongly Democratic.
    In Wisconsin, a lot of dirty politics paved the way for the rise of Scott Walker. I would suggest that Reince Priebus had a lot to do with that, working through Michael Best & Friedrich LLC (MB&F). Darleen Wink--through Tim Russell's covert system--emailed Priebus at his MB&F address, though he was thought generally to be just acting as state Republican Party chairman. Priebus also became national GOP general counsel following the Obama victory through his association with party chair Michael Steele. Priebus is supposedly "on leave" with MB&F since he became national Party chair.
    MB&F since November 2010 has been involved in redistricting (gerrymandering - lots of disenfranchised voters) districts, filing lawsuits against judges who reject Voter ID, and representing Van Wanggaard on voter fraud allegations after he lost his election.
    I think Reince Priebus took some cues from Florida politics when he studied law there at University of Miami; he reportedly spent a good amount of time helping local GOP campaigners.