In this morning's post, I published a copy of a Stacy Ritter campaign check that the Florida Elections Commission believed was signed by the candidate herself.
But it wasn't. It was almost surely signed by her lobbyist husband, Russell Klenet. In fact, it looks like Klenet, whose name was listed on the campaign banking account, signed all of those unlawful reimbursement checks.
By the way, just to make sure we're all clear, the grand total that Ritter and Klenet reimbursed themselves during the campaign is $20,135.05, roughly $5,000 of it to Ritter, the rest to Klenet. That figure doesn't count the Tamarac Cafe Diner receipt or the $6,600 in phone bills, or other matters we've discussed. It was money burned almost exclusively on dinners and shopping, allegedly for the campaign.
Now back to the signature issue. Here's an example of one of those reimbursement checks:
For comparison purposes, here's Ritter's signature from the campaign forms:
Not close. Kenet apparently has a couple of different signatures. After eating those extravagant meals he would usually just put a squiggly mark on the credit card bill. But here's his signature on Small Business Administration papers for a loan he and Ritter took out in 2006:
That one, as you can see, isn't perfect, but it pretty much matches the signature that was put on all 11 reimbursement checks totally $20,135.05.
Inside see where we're going with this and why it's important.
In short, the fact that Klenet signed the checks and ate most of the meals sets him up as the scapegoat in Ritter's defense.
Ritter will say that, yes, she was the campaign treasurer, and yes, she did authorize everything, but she really didn't know what was going on. It was her hubbie. The hope is that because Klenet isn't an elected official, prosecutors will look the other way.
Another scapegoat is Alexssandra Lieberman, who was paid to be Ritter's campaign bookkeeper. Lieberman is also Klenet's secretary at his lobbying firm. You can bet that when push comes to shove, the blame will be put squarely on Lieberman's shoulders and since she's on Klenet's payroll, she might just fall in line.
Of course this is a thoroughly ridiculous defense. For one, Lieberman didn't spend any of that money on herself. And if it is true that Klenet masterminded the entire campaign fund heist, then he should be arrested for theft, embezzlement, fraud, etc. But even then it's clear that Ritter went along for the ride -- and, again, no matter how much ignorance she claims, she authorized every penny spent from the account.
She's admitted to knowing about the telephone bills, but for most of those expenses sources tell me she's pretty much claiming she can't remember them. It's the old Ronald Reagan defense. The problem is that Ritter isn't in her 70s. She's 50, so it seems a little farfetched.
No there's definitely wrongdoing to go around. How will Ritter defend the fact that her campaign records were falsified to indicate the non-existent $1,000 "thank you party" when it was really an event for Obama? What about the telephone bills? The $15,000 check to Obama's convention? The limo ride? The bedsheets and pillows? What about the $5,000 in reimbursements she received?
Here again is Ritter's defense video. It's her side of the story and it's revealing:
Notice how she claims she'll take "full responsibility" but then talks about errors in "data entry by staff." We'll see how much responsibility she really takes when push comes to shove on some of the more serious issues.