In politics, much like organized crime, the way to find out the truth is to follow the money. In crime, the money brings us to the big fish or the kingpin. In politics, the money brings us to the influencers or a pol’s inner circle- those that have the most direct access to our elected officials. Naturally, and especially in Florida, pay to play hasn’t just been the status quo, but an accepted culture. For Governor Charlie Crist, his biggest influencer and one of his closest confidantes is an old friend from college- a fraternity brother to be exact. A friend that enhanced his fortune through Bush Administration defense contracts during the Iraq War, was the subject of a Federal investigation for funneling illegal campaign donations from wealthy Jordanian nationals, was sued by Jordanian royals and forced to pay $28.8 million, and currently is the subject of a federal investigation into whether his company overcharged the Defense Department by hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the ongoing story of how Harry Sargeant III, alleged war profiteer, corporate crony, and Republican fundraising powerhouse has help to bank roll Charlie Crist’s political career and the RPOF for over a decade. Here is how the venerable Lucy Morgan, dean of Florida political reporters described him earlier this year in the Tampa Bay Times:
Former Gov. Charlie Crist calls him “a great patriot.”
Congressional investigators call him “a war profiteer” who walked away with an extra $200 million while providing fuel to American troops in Iraq.
At Florida State University, he is something of a hero — contributing more than a million dollars to athletic programs, the business school and his old fraternity.
Morgan’s entire piece on Sargeant can be found here.
In this series of posts, we’ll be looking at the man behind the curtain. The man that has reportedly donated over $1.5 million to Florida politicians and the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) since 2000- coincidentally the same year Charlie Crist ran for Education Commissioner. I know. Weird right? But before we get to examining Sargeant’s donations and influence it will be helpful for you to know who the man is, how he made his money, and why you haven’t heard of him. More importantly, the goal of this part of “The Crist Files” is to get Florida voters of a certain political persuasion to understand why they need to know this man and why its not a good idea for the Florida Democratic Party to be in bed with him.
WHO IS HARRY SARGEANT?
Harry Sargeant, a married father of two lives in the exclusive Palm Beach County town of Gulf Stream with his wife Debra. Inside of his 19,000 square foot mansion, the host of many a GOP fundraiser, also lies his rumored 300 piece gun collection. Sargeant and Crist go way back to their days as at the FSU Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house. There is a actually makeshift shrine to Sargeant at the Pi Kappa Alpha house with the label: The Most Powerful Man That No One Knows. He earned such a title through all of his lucrative businesses – ranging from his oil and asphalt shipping company to his an aviation company and oil refinery.
In June 2008, MSNBC reported that one of Sargeant’s companies, the International Oil Trading Company (IOTC), had received four Pentagon contracts and transformed itself into a major defense contractor in only four years. From the MSNBC Report: Sargeant’s IOTC has experienced phenomenal growth since the Iraq war started, transforming itself from an unknown business in 2004 to a major Pentagon contractor in only a few years. The way the American military structured the deal, only a company with the blessing of the Jordanian government could win the contract. A bidder was required to have a Jordanian government “Letter of Authorization,” and only IOTC received such a letter. […] IOTC has won three successive contracts to perform the work. The company — a partnership between Sargeant, Al-Saleh and a third man — ﬁrst won the Pentagon Iraq fuel contract in 2004 with another company. When the Pentagon put the contract up for competition in 2005, IOTC, now incorporated in Florida, won with a bid of $213 million, even though other companies offered lower bids. The Defense Energy Support Center, or DESC, which awarded the contract, said in a statement to NBC News that none of those lower bidders met contract requirements. Then, in 2007, when the Defense Department put the contract up for bid again, IOTC won again.
Put it another way- Harry Sargeant profited from the war. To make matters worse, Sargeant chose one of America’s most unpopular wars to make his reported $500 million fortune. I wonder if the bros at PKA at Florida State understand that Sargreant made his much of his money off of a war that caused the deaths of 4486 Americans and over 100,000 civilians. On Dec. 31, 2009, the Palm Beach Post editorial board questioned whether Sargeant’s contributions to Crist meant the governor was funding his campaign through “war proﬁteering.” The Post wrote:
“Mr. Sargeant’s role in Gov. Crist’s life raises a question no politician wants to hear: Did Gov. Crist and other beneﬁciaries of Mr. Sargeant’s largesse ﬁnance their campaigns on the strength of war proﬁteering? They don’t want to hear the question, but voters need to hear the answer.” [Palm Beach Post, 12/31/2009]
It’s a question Charlie Crist will undoubtedly be forced to answer if and when he graces the Democratic Gubernatorial primary with his prescence. As these contracts began to make the news cycles, they caught the eye of Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA). In June 2008, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked Sargeant whether his company had been overcharging the Department of Defense for fuel.
Waxman wrote: “I am writing regarding recent allegations that Defense Department contractors have been overcharging the U.S. government to ship fuel to U.S. bases in lraq. I am writing regarding According to a recent press account regarding International Oil Trading Company (IOTC), ‘For each gallon of jet fuel that is delivered to the U.S. military in Iraq, IOTC charges the Pentagon $1.08 over the market price.’ According to this account, the Pentagon conﬁrmed that ‘IOTC was not the lowest bidder’ for this contract, but that IOTC was the only company with a ‘Letter of Authorization’ from the Jordanian government, which was a Defense Department requirement in the contract.” [Rep. Waxman Letter, 6/17/2008]
I wish that I could say that this was the end of the line for Mr. Sargeant’s transgressions regarding his business affairs. But I can’t. Sargeant was sued by the King of Jordan’s Brother-In-Law for Fraud in a pipeline deal. On June 18, 2008, MSNBC reported that Sargeant was being sued by the King of Jordan’s brother, Mohammad Al-Saleh, for fraud in a pipeline deal. The suit alleged that Sargeant and his company, IOTC, had committed fraud against Al-Saleh by cutting him out of $13 million he was owed in proﬁt from a contract on an oil pipeline that was being used to supply oil to American troops in Iraq.
MSNBC reported: “A little-noticed civil lawsuit in Florida is shining a light on an unusual but hugely proﬁtable Pentagon contract to ship millions of gallons of aviation fuel to U.S. bases in Iraq through the kingdom of Jordan. The deal involves a cast of inﬂuential characters, including the king of Jordan’s brother-in-law, who is suing Harry Sargeant III, a top Florida-based fundraiser for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid. […] Through a company called International Oil Trading Co., or IOTC, Sargeant and a partner have a lucrative contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year to supply American military forces in Iraq with fuel, especially aviation fuel. […] The lawsuit against Sargeant was ﬁled April 10 in Florida state court by Mohammad Al-Saleh, who is married to the half sister of King Abdullah of Jordan. Al-Saleh’s suit says he essentially brokered Sargeant’s contract by arranging the approval and cooperation of the Jordanian government, using his “connections and inﬂuence.” […] Al-Saleh alleges in the lawsuit that after he arranged the deal, he was cut out in a scheme meant to defraud him. He claims that he and Sargeant and the third partner, Mustafa Abu-Naba’a, a Jordanian businessman, had invested in IOTC Jordan in 2004. But, he says, Sargeant and Abu-Naba’a committed fraud by forming another company called IOTC USA in Florida without informing him and by channeling the Pentagon contracts through that ﬁrm. Al-Saleh is suing Sargeant, Abu Naba’a and the company for $13 million as his share of the proﬁt from the 2005 contract, plus an unspeciﬁed amount of proﬁt from the 2007 contract.” [MSNBC, 6/18/2008,]
Guess what? There’s more. Sargent was also involved in bribery scheme with Jordanian Government On Oct. 23, 2008, NBC reported that Sargeant was involved in a bribery scheme with the Jordanian government. NBC reported:
“A prominent fundraiser for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign is facing a new legal challenge over a lucrative Pentagon contract that involved shipping oil to military forces in Iraq. A competing ﬁrm ﬁled a federal suit under the Racketeer Inﬂuenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act this week against the fundraiser, Harry Sargeant III, and his company, International Oil Trading Company. The suit accuses them of a “bribery scheme” to pay ofﬁcials in the Kingdom of Jordan, in an effort to keep competing ﬁrms out.” [NBC, 10/23/2008]
Now that we have a background on who Harry Sargeant is and how he made his money, our next post in this series will begin to untangle the web of his political influence which spans in to both parties and not just Charlie Crist. As the most important man in Florida, Charlie Crist will be a magnet for greedheads itching for more influence and access. And as our future posts pertaining to Charlie’s ideology and funding will tell you, those greedheads will tell us all we need to know about Charlie’s true allegiances and ideology.
We hope you’ll continue reading our special series “The Crist Files” as we continue the journey of ensuring a fair and vigorous examination of potential Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Charlie Crist.
Until Next Time, Thanks For Reading,