Once a ubiquitous and tanned presence in Florida politics, Charlie Crist still has a job in politics, but it looks sadly as if he's dropped to the bottom rung of political power.
In a condition that has to grate on the man who so loves the presence of cameras, Crist is currently working in near anonymity, and that limited power seems to be receding even more. Evidence is surfacing that Crist’s relationship with the Morgan & Morgan law firm has not only ended but, as reported by Sarah Rumpf at RedState, the firm is going further by attempting to purge all evidence of their relationship.
While politicians in general have a very low image with the public, particular contempt seems reserved for those who can be described as a “political animal”. Rather than inflexibly fighting for causes, or posing as a warrior for a particular party, the political animal appears transparently to be in the game solely for himself. Enter former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Crist, as a centrist, had a generally favorable if legislatively contradictory tenure in Tallahassee, given many in the GOP derisively regard him as a Democratic governor. More important than political accomplishment, he had brand strength. For a while, he was an established name with face recognition, and whispers were, he was being groomed for a star role in D.C.; at one stage he was on the long list to be John McCain’s running mate. But rather quickly, Crist’s star began to plummet and dim. And his true nature came to the front.
Much like current Gov. Rick Scott this year, Crist was following his tenure in the governor’s mansion with a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010. This appeared to be all but a lock -- until the Tea Party (which nudged Sarah Palin ahead of Crist for the VP role) began exerting its influence, and the young and charismatic Marco Rubio steamrolled Crist’s plans. Scrambling, Crist realized he would be trounced in the primary, so he dropped out entirely, reentering the ballot that year as an independent. With conservatives clearly turning their back, the governor hoped to curry interest from all other groups with his centrist record. Rubio cruised to the Senate easily.
Immediately after that loss, Crist attempted to float what many felt was a possible new political party. Dubbed No Labels, this was to be an outreach to the supposedly disenfranchised centrist voters for an alternative. It did nothing to give Crist his highly coveted political traction, and so by 2012, he had become a Democrat with an eye at challenging Rick Scott in the 2014 election.This would make for his third unsuccessful bid for office in four years, under three separate political banners.
During this time -- actually, even before this time -- Crist managed to enter into a partnership with the large Florida law firm of Morgan & Morgan. Founder John Morgan was a huge Democratic bundler and liberal activist. Though Crist did virtually no courtroom work for Morgan & Morgan, he appeared in numerous ads and on billboards for the firm. This was regarded as a bid to keep his brand alive as he and Morgan positioned him for the 2014 race.
At the time, John Morgan even said of Crist, "He doesn't ever have to get near a courtroom, that's how much business he brings in."
But that was pretty much the end of Morgan's Crist compliments when his employee fell to Scott.
Crist ultimately scratched together a political victory by securing a seat in the U.S. House as a Democrat representing the district including Pinellas County. But as a rookie congressman, he has little-to-no power, and Morgan & Morgan apparently sees him as a fellow who has lost his usefulness.
As the relationship with M&M has dissipated, the firm has taken steps to expunge any affiliation with Crist. He has been all but scrubbed from the company website, with only a couple of lingering press releases even mentioning him by name. More than that, they appear to be taking a proactive move to erase all connections to Crist on the web.
A consulting firm working on behalf of Morgan & Morgan reached out to Sarah Rumpf regarding a link in an article she wrote years back on an old blog that she has not updated in years. The link in question was a redirect to the Crist biography page, which the firm has already taken down. It’s one thing to remove contact info and other details regarding a former employee from the managed website. But to seek out all tendrils of evidence on the web is an attempt to memory-hole the entire Charlie Crist relationship.
Why this effort is undertaken is not entirely clear. Up until a few months ago John Morgan was regarded as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination for governor. However, in November, just weeks after stating he would run, Morgan suddenly declared he was pulling out of the Democratic party and would become an independent. He has hedged on whether this means he will actually run as an independent candidate, or not run at all. He has expressed disappointment in the party during his departure, but he also indicated he was reticent about all the financial disclosures to which he would be subjected should he run.
As the politically neutered Charlie Crist wanders the marble halls of the House, he'll have a job seeking out a new path to influence. What does a political animal do when his biggest supporter, politically and financially, is in the process of white-washing their entire relationship?
Brad Slager is a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer who wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.