Crist's Everglades Purchase Revealed as Disgraceful Act of Corruption, Greed | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Crist's Everglades Purchase Revealed as Disgraceful Act of Corruption, Greed

But we already knew that. We just didn't know how thoroughly Gov. Charlie Crist and his trusty sidekick, George LeMieux, had exploited environmentalists and cheated Florida taxpayers. Thanks to this assiduously researched article in the New York Times, we've got the big picture -- and it's ugly.

It's clear that this isn't a case of mere negligence. Rather, Crist and LeMieux collaborated on a venture that would allow the governor to appear to be an environmental hero, even if his true agenda was rewarding a Republican campaign contributor. And for LeMieux, the payoff was even more handsome.

LeMieux's law firm, Gunster Yoakley, landed the gig of negotiating the deal. LeMieux told the Times that he recused himself from those discussions while working for Crist. And the firm provided an email from LeMieux in which he said he didn't want to be compensated by the firm for its work on the deal. But these are flimsy explanations.

We know that LeMieux's firm negotiated a terrible deal, because we know that the state overpaid by hundreds of millions of dollars. We also know that LeMieux's firm stood to make tens of millions of dollars through its role in the negotiations. So it's hard to take LeMieux's word at face value that he didn't have a personal stake in this colossal rip-off.

Besides, he already has a history of leaping lucratively from his public position to his private one. He did the same thing with the North Broward Hospital District. And with the state's deal to purchase railroad tracks.

Put simply, if there isn't already a federal corruption investigation into LeMieux's double dealings and Crist's complicity, there damned well should be.

And there's enough shame in this episode for Florida environmental activists to take their share. However badly they want to save the Everglades, it's environmentalists' responsibility to blow the whistle and withdraw their support when a deal is such a lopsided loser for taxpayers -- let alone the fact that it's not even a clear benefit to the cause of Everglades restoration.

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Thomas Francis

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