Stone: Seminoles Paid Off LeMieux Through GOP
Well, GOP consultant Roger Stone was deposed in the Scott Rothstein bankruptcy case yesterday and, true to his usual form, he didn't disappoint.
And of course, most of the good stuff didn't concern the real business at hand, which is whether Stone owes Rothstein creditors $60,000 that was listed as an unpaid loan in the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler books. That issue remains unresolved. No, the good stuff revolved around Stone's forte, politics.
First, let's get real about Rothstein's alleged U.S. Senate aspirations. Stone told bankruptcy attorney Chuck Lichtman that Rothstein wanted to be on the list, but don't for a second think that the Ponzi schemer wanted to hold office. Stone told me last night that Rothstein mentioned it only once, "in the glimmer of an
eye," about wanting to be mentioned on the short list of possible Charlie Crist appointees. He thought that he'd earned the right and that a mention would be good for business. Rothstein's name was mentioned as a possible senator in only one place -- Stone's own blog, The StoneZone.
With that little bit of nothing out of the way, Stone also talked about his work to get Crist on another short list -- John McCain's list of possible vice presidential nominees. But that's already been covered on the Pulp (a fact mentioned during the depo).
Stone told me he also discussed at the depo Crist's appointment of his friend, former chief of staff and "maestro" George LeMieux, to the U.S. Senate seat. And that to me is where it gets really interesting. Stone, after all, has had it in for LeMieux, whom he chidingly calls the
the "Frenchman," for some time.
"I hit LeMieux hard," Stone said of the deposition.
The biggest allegation Stone makes about the senator is that LeMieux was paid off by the Seminole Tribe to add blackjack and other table games in the compact he negotiated for Crist. And he said he raised that allegation at yesterday's deposition.
Here's the way the payoff was orchestrated, according to Stone. First, the Seminole Tribe, angling for expanded gambling and an accommodating deal from the state, has pumped about $600,000 into Florida Republican Party coffers since 2006. The tribe's development partner, Coastal Development, contributed another $300,000 to the state GOP during that time.
In 2007, while serving as chief of staff, LeMieux negotiated the contoversial compact that proposed to legalize blackjack and other table games at Seminole casinos like the Hollywood Hard Rock and give it a monopoly on the new games. The compact has since been struck down by the Florida Supreme Court.
In December of that year, LeMieux left his position with Crist to become chairman of the Fort Lauderdale law firm Gunster Yoakley, but he kept negotiating with the Seminoles on behalf of the governor without pay, he has told the media. The state GOP, though, has paid $150,000 to LeMieux's consulting company, MTC Strategies (the senator's sons are named Max, Taylor, and Chase) after he left the governor's employ. LeMieux and the state GOP have both refused to discuss the $150,000. It's worth noting that the Republican Party also paid LeMieux $200,000 in the months just before and after Crist was elected governor, making a total of $350,000 in payments.
Stone claims that money was simply funneled Seminole money as a payoff for putting blackjack into the compact. "He tacked on blackjack, and that is the suspicious act," Stone told me. "That was George, and that's what I think the $350,000 was paid for."
Of course, the allegation is unproven and, at the moment, amounts to little more than intriguing speculation. One could make the argument that the roughly $900,000 from the tribe and its developer was enough to cause Crist to break his campaign promise not to expand gambling and try to hand the Seminoles a monopoly. If the Rothstein case teaches us anything about the governor, it's that Crist loves the big money and is willing to use his office to reward those who pay it (for evidence, see Charlie's appointment of Rothstein to the Fourth District Court of Appeals Judicial Nominating Commission just four days before he contributed $140,000 to the state GOP).
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