When Gov. Charlie Crist anointed George LeMieux as Florida's new U.S. senator, he did more than hand his closest adviser the plum job of a lifetime. With a hug and a handshake, Crist transformed LeMieux from a little-known insider ("George LeWho?" one paper asked) to a major political figure, suddenly thrust into a spotlight that's illuminating how his public service brought him private profit.
Amid charges of political cronyism and claims he was picked to be the governor's proxy in Washington, there is renewed scrutiny of LeMieux's dealings and those of his law firm, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart, on multiple fronts:
• The law firm, chaired by LeMieux, helped foreign workers get visas last fall to help build a hotel and condos in Miami, depriving dozens of Floridians jobs at a time of rising unemployment. CBS4 News in Miami first reported the law firm's efforts, which included persuading the U.S. State Department that the Mexican workers had special skills that Americans didn't. In a statement, the firm said Le-Mieux had no involvement in immigration matters.
• While serving as Crist's chief of staff in 2007, LeMieux secretly helped negotiate a lucrative gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional and has triggered a debate over the expansion of gambling in Florida. LeMieux recently helped negotiate a second compact that the Legislature will consider this fall. He has said the compact will contribute more money to Florida schools and will limit future expansion of gambling.
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