In his interview yesterday with the Sun-Sentinel, Charlie Crist said that he considered Scott Rothstein a "friend." He said that until Rothstein's Ponzi scheme was discovered, Crist gave the Fort Lauderdale attorney the "benefit of the doubt." It appears Rothstein enjoyed the same status with Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley and Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti.
These guys can't be expected to investigate the background of every person who gives them a campaign contribution or who they encounter at some social function.
But these men were placed in their important roles in government based on the notion that they possessed good judgment. That term encompasses the "hunch." And if they didn't at least have a hunch that something was amiss in the Rothstein fortune, then
they have incredibly poor judgment.
How does the police chief decide it's a good idea to accept an invitation on a private jet full of rich guys bound for New York, as Adderley did?
How does the sheriff allow his right-hand man, David Benjamin, to become such bosom buddies with a flashy, mysteriously wealthy guy, the way that Lamberti did?
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And how does Crist allow Rothstein to personally finance the Crist for VP campaign and establish himself as one of the leading contributors and Republican fundraisers in the state?
Greed. That's the most likely, judgment-obscuring force at work here. It appears Adderley enjoyed the Rothstein glamour, while Lamberti and Crist enjoyed the attorney's heaping piles of campaign cash.
And though Crist may be right in giving campaign contributors the benefit of the doubt, that privilege should shrink at approximately the same rate as a contributor's donations rise. The larger a contributor's investment in your campaign, the more incumbent it is on that campaign to be sure his money's clean.
Because in Rothstein, we see the dangerous consequences of what happens when guys like Crist and Lamberti fail to perform their due diligence: They become props for Rothstein, tools through which he can establish his legitimacy, not just to wary investors but to criminal investigators. In effect, they were part of the scam. And they ought to feel the political consequences for that.