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Nancy Smith

Charlie Crist and John Morgan: Let the Mutual Back-Scratching Begin

December 9, 2012 - 6:00pm

Some of the folks who know Charlie Crist and his uber-attorney employer John Morgan best say Florida is about to find out what makes their relationship tick.

It isn't, it never was, personal-injury law.

"I'll tell you what it is," said Washington, D.C., attorney Phillip A. Harris, who claims he worked briefly with both men. "It's all about ambition and a love of power. This is a real symbiotic friendship these two men have.

"Charlie is no ambulance chaser, but he's always hungry for higher office, he never runs a second term for anything. And John is one of those larger-than-life guys, a rich power player who loves it that he can walk straight into anybody's office -- especially politicians at the highest level -- and the sea will part for him."

It took Crist three tries to pass the Florida Bar, he hadn't practiced law in nearly two decades and some folks in the Morgan & Morgan law firm claim he still hasn't.

"John Morgan is happy to give Charlie a fat paycheck," Harris said. "The governor will reciprocate later, when he's back in the mansion and John has an entre to the best address in the Sunshine State. He loves that stuff."

Morgan is already plenty influential by most Floridians' standards. In 2009 he was named one of the "25 Most Powerful People in Central Florida" by a panel of community leaders in Orlando. He and his 11-office personal-injury law firm donate mightily to both political parties. But the affection and the big money go to the Dems.

The flamboyant attorney is legend for his political activism asa "bundler" someone who collects checks on behalf of a campaign from other contributors. By Aug. 1 he had raised $672,000 for the Obama campaign. That put him in the top 15 percent of Obama's 638 bundlers nationally, according to the campaign finance watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

"You want to know why Democratic politicians love lawyers, just look to John Morgan," said Harris. "Imagine what he can do for Charlie. In fact, he's said he's going to work hard for Charlie."

Long before Crist turned from Republican to independent to Democrat, Morgan told a Central Florida reporter that if the former governor decides to run in 2014 he "would raise him millions of dollars."

"John is one of the few people who can probably just send an email and people will respond and attend a fundraiser," said state Rep. Scott Randolph, a Democrat with considerable influence in Orange County.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, people still are talking about the doozie of a 500-person party Morgan threw for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in 2010. In the past 12 months, the newspaper says, he hosted a Bill Nelson fundraiser at his home last September; one for President Barack Obama in November; and one for Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren last month.

Morgan also helped organize other fundraisers not held at his house, including an up-to $30,000-per-person Obama fundraiser in January at basketball star Vince Carter's Windermere home. That little event raised an estimated $2.1 million.

Morgan did not respond to a request for an interview.

An employee at Morgan & Morgan who declined to speak on the record could not confirm how many "Charlie Crist face" billboards Morgan & Morgan has up in strategic locations in Florida. All of them blast the company's motto, "For the People" -- even the one erected seven months ago a few blocks from the governor's mansion.

Nor could she confirm whether the motto was included on the signs because it is intentionally subliminal. In 2007 Crist gave himself the slogan "the people's governor."

"They're friends," the employee said. "They give each other advice, I suppose, as all friends do. Of course I think John will be involved in Charlie's campaign."

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

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