Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Schadenfreude Update: It's Been Awhile Since I Griped About Florida Politics, So Enjoy

So here I was all wrapped up in the Bucs' Free Agency period (we still need a Cornerback, Dom!), when news comes out this morning about this:

The Lieutenant Governor of Florida (akin to a Veep) Jennifer Carroll resigned from office this morning.

Apparently it was a pretty sudden move.  There was reportedly a state-wide gathering of Chamber of Commerce leaders she had to cancel out on (although her staff reported she had nothing on her calendar for today).

This has been an ongoing investigation, although it hadn't been dominating the local news much.  She'd been embroiled in a reported charity program that operated Internet Cafes: that Tampa Bay Times article goes into better detail:

Carroll's connections to Allied Veterans of the World, a Florida nonprofit that operates a chain of Internet sweepstakes cafes as a pseudo-charity for veterans.  The cafes sell Internet time for entries into sweepstakes on devices that resemble slot machines.
This week, close to 60 people associated with the company were arrested on various charges, including illegal gambling, racketeering and money laundering.
Carroll owned a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, and while a member of the Florida House of Representatives, did work for the company.  (Personal Note: it is legal for state legislators to have outside jobs, as the legislature is deemed part-time and paid as such.  Whether or not conflicts of interest arise from those jobs is another matter...) She later filmed an advertisement promoting Allied Veterans while serving as lieutenant governor...

You might notice a few keywords in that report: calling the nonprofit a "pseudo-charity" is one, another is selling sweepstakes via machines "resembling slot machines".  The big keyword is "racketeering": that's a heavy-hitting criminal charge, something only the Feds can break out as a prosecutorial weapon.

The investigation into Allied Veterans started in 2009, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.  Investigators said that Allied Veterans tried to scheme and defraud the public and governmental agencies by misrepresenting how much of its proceeds were donated to charities affiliated with Veterans Administration...
While serving in the state House in 2010, Carroll introduced legislation to legalize sweepstakes games such as those in cafes operated by Allied Veterans.  Carroll later withdrew the proposed law, saying it was filed erroneously (Personal Note: she also has a bridge near around Brooklyn she'd like to sell you) and that she wasn't interested in legalizing Internet cafes, which operate in a legal gray area...

This is mostly a delicious slice of schadenfreude, I admit it.  I'm no fan of Rick Scott (did you ever notice?), so anything that embarrasses his administration is a big win in my raging biased opinion.

For Carroll to quit a relatively meaningless job - like most Veeps, the Lt. Gov just kinda sits there - is still a big deal: as a woman and African-American (she was the first Lt. Governor African-American for Florida, the closest to the governorship ever), she was a prominent part of a Republican Party having serious problems getting Blacks and women to vote for the party.

It's not my place to speculate on an ongoing criminal investigation... but what the hell, I will.  That Carroll resigned pretty much right after state law enforcement officials interviewed her for a few hours is a big sign that the investigators had something serious on her.  That she was tied to a potentially criminal enterprise really isn't enough to force a resignation: there have been politicians at every level tied to even scuzzier elements working in "gray areas" of business that never resigned simply because of associating with the "wrong" people.  Until actual charges are filed, if ever, we might not know just what it was that convinced Carroll she needed to leave office.

That said, I am curious as to what kind of deal Carroll's lawyers are going to try to get for her.  Which is where the fun stuff can happen: if Carroll is tied in deep with Allied Veterans and that pseudo-charity is involved in massive fraud, Carroll's going to need some red meat to trade out a harsh jail time for a few months of community service and a 50 dollar fine.  Having been inside Rick Scott's circle for a few years... having been inside the Florida Lege for a few years, dominated by a self-serving pack of Republicans enjoying gerrymandered safe seats... Carroll's bound to have picked up on a few juicy goings-on behind office doors... hehehehehehehh...

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