Lead Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was feted by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan Tuesday in a fundraiser at his Lake Mary home, where a large crowd -- who paid $1,000 to as much as $25,000 each -- contributed $1.3 million to his 2020 campaign.
The fundraiser was the second Morgan has organized for Biden and the second this week in Florida for the former vice president, who netted another $400,000 at a Monday campaign event hosted by developer Michael Adler in Coral Gables.
In the background, however, is a stewing Twitter feud between Morgan and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who came within 30,000 votes of upsetting Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s gubernatorial election.
While the hostility reflects a clash of ideologies as more “traditional” Democrats and the party’s progressive wing -- exemplified by Gillum -- battle for campaign dollars in a crowded primary field, it has also taken a personal turn with Morgan attacking the popular CNN commentator and Democratic rising star as a "#Fraudster."
A big bucks donor who financed the 2016 ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana and is spearheading a 2020 initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage, Morgan left the Democratic Party in 2017 and now describes himself as unaffiliated.
But the well-known lawyer, whose Morgan & Morgan law firm’s signature “For the People” motto is widely heard in statewide television and radio advertisements, continues to support a range of candidates, causes and campaigns, including Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Gillum in his 2018 campaign and a $75,000 donation to the Republican Party of Florida in January.
Last week, Morgan accused Gillum of undermining his own campaign by not spending $3 million of the $37 million raised by his Forward Florida PAC during the final weeks of the gubernatorial race, maintaining it could have made a difference in an election decided by less than a half-percent.
“You lost by 30k votes and kept the money from people who trusted you so that now you can go around the state with a staff preparing for your next run,” Morgan tweeted. “I will tell you that is a huge mistake. Your donors are very disappointed. This is a huge ethical lapse. Give it to charity not yourself. #PoliticsAreAllTheSame.”
In March, Gillum announced Forward Florida was building a coalition of young urbanites and older liberals in an effort to register 1 million more Democratic voters in the state by 2020.
Last week, Forward Florida donated $100,000 to the Florida Democratic Party for voter registration and announced it would give another $400,000 to organizations mobilizing voters in minority communities.
“The race begins today,” Gillum said. “This is simply a downpayment. We’ve got a lot more coming your way.”
After Gillum criticized the Legislature for requiring felons to pay all fines, fees and restitution before being permitted to vote, which many say violates the spirit of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November, Morgan suggested in a tweet that Gillum take his unspent campaign money “and use it ALL to pay the financial restitution now owed by freed felons to vote. This poll tax is unconscionable. They paid a price & are now being asked to pay again.”
He later offered “that we together pay” felons’ fines, fees and restitution so they could vote.
After ignoring Morgan’s previous comments, Gillum tweeted, “We’ve committed all funds & money to raising to registering and reengaging one million voters to beat @realDonaldTrump in 2020. Join us. Or use your sway with @RonDeSantisFL to get it vetoed.”
Morgan Monday called Gillum a “#Fraudster,” tweeting that “@AndrewGillum has dedicated his life to himself. Tell me what job he has ever had? How much money did you give him? We gave him $2M. BS is BS no matter what party!”
On Tuesday, Morgan continued hammering away at Gillum in a series of tweets that drew responses from Gillum supporters and Democrats to cease-fire for the sake of party unity.
“All that @AndrewGillum and his campaign have done is perfectly legal and within campaign finance laws of our state,” Morgan tweeted. “As someone who supported him heavily and asked others to do so I am disappointed to learn that the money we thought was going to win an election sat in the vault.
“That money could have made the difference,” he continued. “My suggestion that we together pay felons' poll tax would have righted a wrong. They should have allowed these people the right to vote. That is what the people of Florida wanted. This is all I have to say on this matter. Live and learn.”
Gillum, who spoke Monday at Clark Atlanta University commencement ceremony, has not responded.
John Haughey is a Florida contributor for The Center Square.