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Ex-Florida GOP Head Claims Embarrassing Party Secrets

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File photo of Charlie Crist (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

File photo of Charlie Crist (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A former state GOP chairman accused of stealing from the party has made some embarrassing accusations of his own, including claims that the party tried to suppress black voters, though secret recordings released Thursday shows he was concerned what people knew about a secret arrangement he made to get a share of party donations.

In a deposition Jim Greer gave as part of his lawsuit against the party, Greer portrays himself as a victim of a conspiracy against him while painting a picture of a party in turmoil that’s marred by loose ethics. But a secret tape released as part of the criminal investigation also shows Greer was worried about what party leaders knew about Victory Strategies, a company he and his executive director formed to pay themselves 10 percent of major party donations.

The party said it wouldn’t comment on ongoing legal matters.

Greer claims that his deposition he did nothing illegal when he and Delmar Johnson set up Victory Strategies. Greer had a 60 percent share in the company and Johnson had 40 percent. The Republican Party of Florida was its sole client and Greer, as party chairman, approved the contract that directed nearly $200,000 in party money to Victory strategies. The contract, however, didn’t identify Greer or Johnson as Victory Strategies’ owners.

“Has anyone specifically asked you about Victory Strategies?” Greer asked Johnson, who investigators wired during a visit to Greer’s home. “Has anyone specifically come to you and said, ‘Did Greer get any of that?'”

Greer also collected donations for his campaign to be re-elected as party chairman and paid $40,000 of it to Victory Strategies. He kept $39,000 of that himself.

Greer expresses concerns on the tape that he might be arrested. Johnson cooperated with investigators in exchange for immunity.

Geer tells a different story in his civil case, in which he claims the party owes him $123,000 as part of a severance agreement he negotiated with Senate President Mike Haridopolos, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Sen. John Thrasher, who succeeded Greer as chairman.

And along the way, he makes stunning accusations, including claims that party officials were trying to find ways to get black people not to vote.

“They talked about not letting blacks vote … and minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party,” Greer said.

He also detailed a party in chaos, saying elected leaders tried wrestling control of the party from then-Gov. Charlie Crist while “whack-a-dos” from the party right and tea partiers also tried to grab control. And he portrayed himself as getting caught in the middle as he stayed loyal to Crist

“The wing of the party that does not agree with Charlie Crist considered me a moderate chairman,” Greer said. “As was commonly referred to them, the whack-a-dos, the crazies, the right wingers. As Dean Cannon said to me one time, the people that want to destroy our Party are trying to take it over.”

Greer claimed that then Attorney General Bill McCollum tried to force Greer to remove party leaders at the county level if they weren’t supporting his campaign for governor. He also said he later became frustrated with Crist for failing to help the party raise money, instead focusing on his efforts to build his Senate campaign account. He said his biggest regret was putting his trust in the governor.

He also described wild spending by elected officials who held party credit cards.

“The legislative leaders were using their credit cards like it was drunken sailors, and they made it clear to me I was not to interfere with their spending,” Greer said.

Greer said that he formed Victory Strategies after Crist’s chief of staff, George LeMieux, suggested he take over party fundraising and take a commission. He said Crist knew about the plan, though Crist and LeMieux, who Crist later appointed to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat, have repeatedly denied the claim.

Greer said before reaching the severance agreement, he allowed party contracts to be reviewed and specifically asked party leaders if they had any questions about Victory Strategies, though he acknowledged nothing in the contract names him or Johnson and that when he offered to answer question about the company, he did not point out he was the majority owner.

. ___

Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bsfarrington

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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