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Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Florida, not much is asked of the lieutenant governor.

It’s a sham job, devoid of responsibility. Your typical day is spent attending dull functions that the governor chooses to avoid.

Under the best of circumstances you’ll serve out your term uneventfully, and unknown to most Floridians. Under the worst of circumstances you’ll end up like Jennifer Carroll, a mortifying headline.

She resigned suddenly last week after federal and state agents began rounding up suspects involved with a chain of Internet cafes that allegedly served as a front for illegal gambling, racketeering and money laundering.

The organization had presented itself as a charity called Allied Veterans of the World, and had tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Under a typically porous Florida law, it was allowed to operate Internet “sweepstakes cafes” as long as the earnings were donated to charitable causes.

Over three years, Allied Veterans raked in hundreds of millions of dollars, but only 2 percent found its way to veterans’ groups. The rest of the money went to sleazeballs who bought fancy cars, boats and big houses.

Gosh, imagine that.

Carroll, who so far hasn’t been charged with a crime, owned a public relations company that represented Allied Veterans while she was in the state House of Representatives. Later, as lieutenant governor, she taped a glowing advertisement for the organization.

State records show that Allied Veterans was the major source of income for Carroll’s PR firm in 2010 and 2011. Her company is now listed as inactive, which suggests that it didn’t have a long roster of other clients.

The federal investigation of Allied Veterans started in 2009, though it’s unlikely that Gov. Rick Scott knew about it when he picked Carroll as his running mate. Politically, she had appealing credentials — a former Navy lieutenant commander, and the first African-American Republican ever elected to the Legislature.

Her troubles are more grim news for the governor, who has had a rocky time keeping top staff and agency heads. Carroll herself had been in hot water for racking up $300,000 in travel expenses during her first year in office, causing Scott to put her on a strict $10,000-per-month budget.

In this latest case, some of the GOP lawmakers who are disgruntled with Scott have their own worries. Investigators say that Allied Veterans donated about $2 million to state and local political campaigns, and spent $740,000 lobbying in Tallahassee.