UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Carroll embroiled in Stearns-FBI scandal.
Two major Florida Republicans have now come under fire for involvement in attempts to buy off U.S. House Representative Cliff Stearn's primary opponent. According to the Florida Times Union, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll also lobbied Jett to get out of the race. Many questions remain…did she make calls from the Governor's office? Did she offer state positions or resources? Who else was involved? Stay tuned for another saga involving scandal plagued Carroll unfolds.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Clay Clerk of Courts James Jett told a group of Republicans today the FBI is looking into Rep. Cliff Stearns for what Jett said is a plot to buy him out of this fall's congressional primary.
Jett, who bowed out of the county clerk race after the state Legislature redrew congressional election lines, is running against Stearns for the newly-drawn Florida District 3, which includes much of Clay County. Stearns currently represents Clay County in District 6 from his home in Ocala, but that city has been drawn out of the area in once-a-decade redistricting. He has said he will move to Orange Park to run for re-election.
Stearns used former state Education Commissioner Jim Horne as the middle man to offer everything from money to appointed political positions, Jett said during a South Clay Republicans meeting at the Magnolia Point Golf & Country Club.
Horne was among the names given by Jett to the FBI. Also on the list: Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who formerly represented Clay County in the state House.
Offerings included a job on Stearns' campaign staff or cash to cover the approximately $25,000 Jett has personally spent on his congressional run, Jett said. He also said he was told there could be a job heading the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or a U.S. marshal position once there are vacancies.
The Stearns team used U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner as leverage, Jett said, though he added he doesn't believe Boehner was aware.
"I've got this on tape," Jett said. "This has national ramifications, and I don't want to harm the Republican Party."
The Times-Union has heard the tapes, which are voicemails left on an answering machine, and will have them online later today.
Florida law requires constitutional officers such as clerks of court to report potential corruption, Jett said.
The FBI gave him permission to speak publicly about the investigation, Jett said, although the agency won't.
Stearns' spokesman, Paul Flusche, called Jett's actions "contemptuous."
“Mr. Jett’s claim is totally unfounded -- no one is authorized to make any claims or concessions on behalf of Rep. Stearns," Flusche's said in a statement. "He has not communicated with Mr. Jett at any time to get out of the race. This is a pure and simple political maneuver by Mr. Jett to illegally entrap former friends for vindictive reasons.”
“His actions as an elected official are contemptuous. Mr. Jett’s allegations arose from his own solicitations and strategies for compensation to remove himself as a candidate once he found out that Rep. Stearns would be running in the newly formed district.”
“The people of Clay County will see through his scandalous attempts to illegally entrap his friends to promote his candidacy.”