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Charlie and the Trial Lawyers
Governor Crist plots a comeback from Morgan & Morgan.


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Betsy Woodruff

Charlie Crist had to take the bar three times, and he hadn’t practiced law for at least 18 years when he finished his term as governor in 2011. But that didn’t keep one of Florida’s most powerful law firms, Morgan & Morgan, from taking him on board as soon as he finished serving his time in Tallahassee. Now, as Crist prepares for his DNC speech tonight and rumors swirl about the possibility of his trying to win back his spot in the governor’s mansion, the personal-injury firm’s decision to hire him makes a little more sense.

It might seem embarrassing for a former governor to end up at a personal-injury firm that does TV and billboard advertising — and it is. But Crist has never let a sense of propriety or shame get in the way of his ambitions. His gig at Morgan & Morgan could make for the perfect springboard for a return to politics.

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Since he had trouble keeping his power in the state as a Republican and, later, an independent, process of elimination seems to have taken him to the welcoming arms of President Obama and the DNC. “Charlie Crist no more believes all of the liberal things he’s saying today than he believed the conservative things he was saying in his gubernatorial and senate primaries,” said Todd Harris, a veteran Florida GOP strategist. “The only thing he believes in is himself.”

Another Florida political insider concurred, saying Crist’s leftward pivot looks like bald-faced opportunism. “But who knows what’s in his head.”

In 2010, after it became clear he couldn’t beat Marco Rubio in the Republican Senate primary, Crist, (who was then serving as Governor) famously left the GOP in order to continue his campaign . Many political observers hold that Crist could have easily won another term as governor and didn’t need to take such a risk to maintain power in the state. But that’s just not Charlie Crist; the political chameleon has never run for reelection for a statewide office, always looking for the next thing instead. He put out a charming television spot where he rearranged the letters in the words “Democrats” and “Republicans” to spell “Americans.” Truly a man for all seasons.

Floridians weren’t having it, though, and it looked as if he was disappearing from politics for good when, after being handily defeated by Rubio, he finished his governorship and went to work for Morgan & Morgan.

Many Florida political insiders even question whether Crist actually practices law for Morgan & Morgan. One called him a “celebrity spokesperson” for the firm, which was the top contributor to his 2010 Senate bid. John Morgan, the firm’s founder, is a prominent Florida Democratic fundraiser with a huge network throughout the state. His biennial picnics at the Central Florida Fairgrounds (the last of which featured country star Kenny Rogers) attract thousands of people, including numerous prominent politicians, attorneys, and former clients of the firm. In other words, they’re the perfect networking events for anyone seeking political resurrection.

And that seems to be Crist’s endgame. Morgan told a Florida paper that, if Crist ran in 2014, Morgan “would raise him millions of dollars.” The attorney is probably good for that — the two are good friends, and Morgan’s firm is the top contributor to the campaign committees of Senator Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.). It’s also among the top 20 contributors for other prominent Senate Democrats, including Bob Casey, Maria Cantwell, and Harry Reid. According to its marketing department, it’s the largest personal-injury firm in the country, and Morgan has significant sway among the country’s trial lawyers. And Governor Charlie Crist would definitely be a lot better for them than Rick Scott, who’s pushed for tort reform throughout his tenure.



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