The Bonkers, Sordid History of Matt Gaetz's Friend Joel GreenbergPolitics
The gravitational pull of Matt Gaetz’s breathtaking shittiness is so strong and overpowering that, amidst a federal investigation into whether Gaetz and his friend, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, had sex with a with a 17-year-old girl—considered statutory rape in some states—and reportedly broke some federal sex trafficking laws in the process, Greenberg’s extremely checkered history has been somewhat overlooked. But that oversight, at least for me, ends today!
Greenberg has his own rich and illuminating history of racism, corruption, and abuse of power. Here’s how Politico summed Greenberg up in a revealing look at how truly bonkers his time in office as the Seminole County tax collector was:
His Seminole County tax office was the only one in the state where employees were armed with pistols and body armor. He wore his own law enforcement badge and carried a sidearm at tax collector conferences. He let people pay property taxes with Bitcoin. He tweeted Islamophobic comments, installed a remote-controlled sprinkler system to spray petition gatherers he didn’t like and doled out fat contracts to his groomsmen shortly after winning the usually humdrum Orlando-area office with a campaign to stop “crony capitalism.”
The New York Times has also published its own glimpse into Greenberg’s brief stint as an elected official, which apparently included his thinking that a tax collector is somehow akin to a cop. Emphasis my own:
Four complaints about his actions as tax collector were made to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement from August 2017 to August 2018, including accusations that he had asked a contractor to hack the county’s computers, department records show.
He pulled over a woman in 2017 while wearing shorts, a backward baseball cap and his tax collector’s badge around his neck. She said he had yelled at her for supposedly cutting him off and driving “like a bat out of hell,” according to a complaint she filed to the sheriff’s office.
All of this is worth unpacking in more detail, but let’s start with the Islamophobic comments, because one has to start somewhere. “Very simple question…Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend,” Greenberg wrote on Facebook in 2018. After people correctly pointed out his bigotry and racism, Greenberg defended himself by claiming that he was, as he put it, “legitimately asking on behalf of somebody else,” and merely sharing a question that was posed on Twitter by the conservative radio host Neal Boortz. “I don’t have a racist or bigoted bone in my body,” Greenberg added in an interview with the Orlando Weekly.
Deploying yet another common defense by racists, he continued, “One of my best friends is Muslim, and I have a Black brother.” Okay!
In addition to being Islamophobic bigot, Greenberg clearly saw being the Seminole County tax collector as an opportunity to enrich himself and his buddies. Alongside tossing millions to his friends in consulting contracts and jobs, an audit conducted after Greenberg resigned from office found that he turned the Seminole County tax collector’s office into his … personal cryptocurrency fiefdom??? Not not only had Greenberg seemingly paid a cryptocurrency LLC he created more than $60,o00 in county funds, he allegedly also used public money to mine cryptocurrency, an effort that led to a literal fire:
Approximately $90,000 was spent to build a server room inside Greenberg’s private office to house cryptocurrency mining devices. The room was secured with a keypad entry system. Auditors said when they visited they did not find any such cryptocurrency mining equipment, which was purchased with public funds and belonged to Seminole County.
Auditors also learned the equipment would cause the office’s electrical breakers to overload. When it was moved to the Lake Mary branch, the equipment caused a power surge, starting a fire and causing $6,700 in damages. The costs were not covered under insurance because of the negligence of the ex-tax collector, according to auditors. Overall, auditors found the cryptocurrency server room, fire and other repair costs totaled nearly $100,000 and did not have a public purpose.
Never trust a crypto-bro!
Somehow, Greenberg’s saga gets even wilder. It was his attempt to smear Brian Beute—a challenger who had filed to run against the then-incumbent Greenberg because he was “very concerned about” Greenberg’s “troubling behaviors” during his brief time in office—as an alleged pedophile and a white supremacist that kickstarted the investigation that would ultimately implicate Gaetz.
More, via Politico:
The investigation into Gaetz began under Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, after Greenberg allegedly wrote the anonymous letter purporting to be a student accusing his music teacher, Brian Beute, of pedophilia.
Greenberg also created a fake Facebook account that falsely accused the teacher of sex with a child and made a Twitter account in Beute’s name designed to make him look like a white supremacist, the indictment says.
Beute’s lawyer, Bear, pushed local, state, and ultimately federal investigators to open an inquiry that eventually found Greenberg’s fingerprints on the phony letters and tracked the creation of the phony social media accounts to a computer at Greenberg’s house.
The Orlando Sentinel has more on the anonymous letter that Greenberg is alleged to have written under the guise of a student at the school where Beute was a teacher, which not only falsely claims that Beute engaged in oral and penetrative sex with a boy at the school, but that Beute, in the words of the letter Greenberg seemingly made up, “had his own struggles with the ‘sin of homosexual thoughts’” and told the student they could “pray the gay away.” I guess we can add homophobia to Greenberg’s list of sterling character traits!
Greenberg is reportedly “singing to the feds” about Gaetz, so we can also add being a very bad friend who’s perfectly happy to squeal about his (likely former) buddy in order to save his own hide to that list.