Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary to George LeMieux!

Two years ago today, then-Governor Charlie Crist appointed his "maestro" and close friend, George LeMieux, to keep his seat warm for him in the U.S. Senate.

The move was viewed as blatant cronyism and widely criticized by Republicans, Democrats, and journalists around the state. Fortunately, Florida voters rejected Crist at the polls last November, and LeMieux has spent the last year trying to scurry away from Crist with all his might.

Over the past few months, Adam Hasner's opponents have made repeated attempts to falsely paint him as a moderate, constantly quoting the same St. Pete Times article and blog post, and playing a cute little game of ping-pong where they retweet each other back and forth on Twitter. Every few days, they post the same old links as if they are sharing new information. (We should give them credit for being such dedicated recyclers!)

In contrast, this morning, the Adam Hasner campaign issued a press release extensively detailing what was being said two years ago when the announcement was made that the self-proclaimed "Charlie Crist Republican" was going to the Senate.

The list of quotes from 2009 is nearly overwhelming, quoting dozens and dozens of elected officials, political insiders, journalists - and LeMieux himself - about LeMieux's known moderate positions and close personal relationship with Charlie Crist:

August 29, 2011
Contact: Douglass Mayer

Happy Anniversary: Two Years Ago Charlie Crist
Appointed George LeMieux To The U.S. Senate

~FLASHBACK: Media Reaction To LeMieux's Appointment On August 28, 2009~

Like Crist, [LeMieux] learned a politically calculated lesson that winning - not ideology -- is what matters. (The Miami Herald, 08/29/09)

Reaction From Republicans:

"Former Gov. Jeb Bush, seen as a long-shot potential endorser of Rubio, kept mum on LeMieux's appointment Friday. One has to wonder what he thinks about the political operative, who in 2006 urged Crist to snub a joint appearance with President George W. Bush, suddenly being anointed U.S. senator." (The St. Petersburg Times, 8/29/09)

"The base is going to be very concerned. There is no question this will help Marco Rubio,' said Pasco County Republican state committee member Bill Bunting. 'He took a good, personal friend and said, 'You can hold this seat,' when you needed someone there with legislative experience.'" (The St. Petersburg Times, 8/29/09)

"'I am concerned by Governor Crist's selection for the U.S. Senate seat today, which appears to serve as a placeholder for the Governor, rather than serving the people of Florida as their U.S. Senator,' [Congressman Cliff] Stearns said in a statement." (Orlando Sentinel, 8/29/09)

"'I'm practically speechless,' longtime Republican strategist J.M. 'Mac' Stipanovich said after hearing George LeMieux beat out eight other finalists to be appointed Florida's next U.S. senator. (The St. Petersburg Times, 8/29/09)

"'He says he's a Charlie Crist Republican. I'm still trying to figure out what that means,' said Chris Ingram, a Republican political consultant from Tampa. 'I guess that means LeMieux is going to stick his finger in the air to see which way the wind blows.'" (New York Times Regional Newspapers, 08/29/09)

Reaction From Editorial Boards:

"Crist's selection of George LeMieux, his former campaign manager and chief of staff, should come as no surprise. It's just one more disappointing decision by Crist in recent months that puts his self- interest in going to Washington above the best interests of Floridians." (The St. Petersburg Times Editorial, "Crist serves himself, not Florida, with appointment" 08/28/09)

"It's also not hard to imagine Mr. LeMieux lending his ear to some interests more than others. An attorney, Mr. LeMieux's firm represents U.S. Sugar and Florida Power & Light, among other corporate clients. We hope he'll show better sense than extending them carte blanche." (The Orlando Sentinel Editorial, "It's all about Mr. Crist," 08/29/09)

"He named his former campaign manager, chief of staff and best buddy George LeMieux to the job in a display of cronyism that put his own political ambition ahead of the best interests of Florida residents...But he's never held elected office, is not versed on the issues and knows nothing about Capitol Hill." ("Crist's alter ego Governor picks cronyism in Senate choice," The Florida Today, 08/29/09)

Reaction From Conservative Media:

"It's an outrage. Completely selfish on Crist's part. Impossible to say that it's in the public interest...On the issues, LeMieux is a liberal Republican, as close as Crist could've come to just appointing himself. Crist has once again proven that there's nothing he won't do." (John J. Miller, "From a Florida Conservative," National Review, 8/29/09)

"With a health-care public option in the balance in coming weeks, no one seems to know how Mr. LeMieux might vote. Mr. Crist is running for Senate in his own right next year, and he faces a primary challenge from former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who called the choice of Mr. LeMieux 'disappointing.' Democrats called it 'political cronyism' and it's hard to disagree. Florida voters have a right to expect more than a mini-me appointee to serve for 16 months in what could be a momentous Congress. Mr. Crist's Senate choice is another reason to wonder if his principles extend beyond his own political ambitions." (The Wall Street Journal, "Charlie Crist Lite A case of Senate cronyism in Florida," 08/29/09)

Reaction From Mainstream Media:

"Unlike other Southern Republicans, LeMieux is unlikely to be an automatic vote for conservatives who have largely sought to block President Obama's agenda." (Congressional Quarterly, 08/28/09)

"Good morning 4 Marco Rubio. No other name on Crist's list wld have ticked off activist base as much as LeMieux. Lotsa grumbling alrdy" (Adam Smith, St. Petersburg Times)

"LeMieux will likely heed the lessons he learned in Broward. He'll follow the same politically moderate, occasionally conservative philosophy that's kept Crist popular through a rotten recession. It's also a please-everyone-and-no-one, keep-em'-guessing, say-as-little-as-possible type of politics that rankles Democrats and conservative Republicans to no end." (Beth Reinhard, The Miami Herald, 08/29/09)

"[LeMieux] has no voting record and calls himself a 'Charlie Crist Republican,' which could be defined as all things to all people all the time...So it's revealing to go back and examine what LeMieux said and did in that 1998 race, because he does not sound like a garden-variety Republican. Far from it. How else to explain that LeMieux was on record in 1998 as favoring adoptions by gay couples, which today is still illegal in Florida. He was even willing to put the subject of gay marriage to voters in a referendum." (Steve Bousquet, The St. Petersburg Times, 08/30/09)

About LeMieux's Moderate Republicanism:

"[LeMieux] He has described himself as 'a Charlie Crist Republican.'" (Tampa Tribune, 08/29/09) 

"LeMieux...sought to peel off support in the district's large gay community by taking positions in favor of gay adoption and health benefits for same-sex couples." (The Miami Herald, 08/29/09)

"Voters should also be asking questions about where LeMieux stands. Will he try to explain away the positions he took during his 1998 campaign -- in favor of gay adoption, limits on offshore oil drilling and waiting periods at gun shows?" (The Miami Herald, 08/29/09)

"Early in his term as governor, with LeMieux running his office, Crist sought to re-orient the state Republican Party from the conservative approach of the Bush brothers." (Tampa Tribune, 08/29/09)

"Conservatives likely not cheering over LeMieux" (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/28/09)

" remains unclear how far LeMieux might go in embracing Democratic initiatives such as a controversial 'cap and trade' system aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Crist was among the leading Republican governors endorsing the concept of cap and trade..." (Congressional Quarterly, 08/28/09)

"Critics -- conservatives in particular -- will no doubt have plenty of reasons why they think Gov. Charlie Crist made the wrong choice in appointing his former chief of staff to serve out the remainder of U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's term...But it's some of the stances LeMieux took on gay adoption and gay benefits way back in 1998 when he ran unsuccessfully for the state House that could really rankle the conservative base." (The St. Petersburg Times, 8/28/09)

"LeMieux told Steve Bousquet (back then of the Herald, now of the Times/Herald) in September 1998 that gay couples in Florida should be allowed to adopt children. He also said he favored domestic partnership laws to extend health care and other benefits enjoyed by married couples. He said unmarried partners should be permitted to be listed as beneficiaries on insurance policies." (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/28/09)

"LeMieux's record suggests he may not be as reliable a vote for his party. In his only run for elected office, for the Statehouse in 1998, LeMieux favored gay rights, including adoptions...LeMieux was also responsible for helping craft the finer details on some of Crist's signature moves, including his push in 2007 to overhaul the property insurance market by greatly expanding the state's role in providing reinsurance. And LeMieux has been willing to reach out to Democrats in order to accomplish Crist's goals." (New York Times Regional Newspapers, 08/29/09)

About LeMieux's Potential Conflicts Of Interest:

"LeMieux is 'maestro' to both gov and lobbying clients" (The Miami Herald, 08/28/09) 

"LeMieux as Crist's 'maestro' and client's door-opener." (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/29/09)

"As a lawyer, he has represented the Florida Department of Transportation and the Seminole Tribe, for whom he's working pro bono." (Politico, 8/28/09)

"George LeMieux, lobbyist? Nah, 'consultant'" (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/28/09)

"We've twice asked about the financial interests of his friend, whom he described as his campaign 'maestro' in his juggernaut of a governor's campaign. Crist said he's not worried by LeMieux's legal client list. And when asked why it was fair to make lobbyists disclose their clients but not the lawyer LeMieux, Crist said there's a difference between lawyers and lobbyists. Oops. We forgot to ask about 'consultants.' Turns out, on LeMieux's Senate application form...he lists MTC Strategies as his consulting firm....Federal disclosure records show MTC earned $150,000 in the past 13 months for consulting to the Republican Party of Florida." (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/28/09)

"As an attorney, LeMieux has two State of Florida clients: The Department of Transportation, whom he's representing in talks over the Florida East Coast rail line, and the governor himself in compact negotiations with the Seminole Tribe. The former is paid work, the latter is pro bono. The Seminoles seem really happy with Crist and RPOF. The Seminole Tribe (since 1996) has donated nearly $912,000 to the state party, with 71 percent of that money coming in since Crist took over state party fundraising once he won the 2006 Republican primary." (The St. Petersburg Times, 08/28/09)

"LeMieux left the chief of staff job in late 2007 to work as chairman and attorney with the Tallahassee law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart. But the St. Petersburg Times wrote in August 2009 that 'he never really stopped working for Crist,' continuing to negotiate with the Seminoles on a pro-bono basis." (Congressional Quarterly, 08/28/09)


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