Crist in Fort Lauderdale last month.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Navigate to News section

Florida Ponzi-ist Could Make Big Impact

Rothstein revelations may toy with GOP primary

Marc Tracy
January 20, 2010
Crist in Fort Lauderdale last month.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

South Florida attorney Scott Rothstein has been accused of masterminding a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, and plans to plead guilty. Should he allocute, and name names of co-conspirators or other complicit parties, this provincial small-time crook (well, small-time compared to a Bernard Madoff, anyway) could make national political waves.

That’s because, according to Time, plenty of Rothstein’s allegedly illegal money went into state politics, which may in and of itself have broken campaign-finance laws. And most of that money, moreover, went to the state Republican Party … which currently finds itself embroiled in a brutal primary campaign. Depending on which side is more implicated—incumbent Gov. Charlie Crist or state House Speaker Marco Rubio—Rothstein could affect the outcome of the race. On top of which, the contest has implications beyond itself: it is serving as a proxy for the national intra-Republican conflict between moderates (represented by Crist) and hard-line conservatives (represented by Rubio). So very quickly, you can see Rothstein having a major national impact.

Finally, since the bulk of Rothstein’s political donations went to the more powerful state Republican Party, a political scandal tied to the Rothstein case could also conceivably help state Democrats. And maybe national Democrats too? The sky’s the limit for this guy!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.