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Nancy Smith

The Mystery of Millionaire Donor Steve Mostyn: Why Charlie Crist, Why Florida?

November 20, 2014 - 6:00pm

The biggest mystery that never unraveled in Florida Election 2014 has to be super-uber trial attorney Steve Mostyn.

Why would a Houston multimillionaire with no current business in the Sunshine State out-donate billionaire George Soros, giving it to Democrat Charlie Crist's Florida gubernatorial campaign and the Florida Democratic Party?

We never did get to the bottom of it. Crist and Mostyn didn't really know each other before the campaign. What did Mostyn want?

Soros, founder of the far-left Open Society Institute, who advocates bringing European social democracy to the United States, only gave Crist a smidgen over $1 million.

But Mostyn, who has a load of money but nowhere near Soros' loot, comes riding out of the cactus with more than twice that in his saddlebags -- $2.3 million. And all for Crist and the FDP trying to get him elected.

What a way to say howdy pardner.

And that $2.3 million doesn't count the in-kind trips Crist took on Mostyn's jet during the campaign. It might not even be a grand total -- there may be contributions from other sources we're not aware of.

Here's how the $2.3 million we know about breaks down -- by date, amount of contribution, contributor and recipient:

  • 10/27/14 ... $500,000 ... PC Mostyn Law Firm ... DEM Party
  • 10/20/14 .... 300,000 ... PC Mostyn Law Firm ... DEM Party
  • 10/30/14 .... 300,000 ... PC Mostyn Law Firm ... DEM Party
  • 11/30/13 ....... 90,000 ... Mostyn Steve .............. Crist PC
  • 11/30/13 ........10,000 ... Mostyn Steve .............. Crist PC
  • 2/26/14 ....... 300,000 ... Mostyn Law Firm PC .... Crist PC
  • 3/31/14 ....... 200,000 ... Mostyn Law Firm PC .... Crist PC
  • 7/31/14 ....... 100,000 ... Mostyn Law Firm PC .... Crist PC
  • 10/7/14 ....... 500,000 ... Mostyn Law Firm PC .... Crist PC
  • The total comes to $2,300,000

Since Mostyn didn't return my calls to his main officeat 3810 W. Alabama St. in Houston -- and, be honest, election's over, why would he? --I asked some of the tort reform folks who keep tabs on trial lawyers: Why would this East Texas native who got rich on hurricanes, and who with his wife Amber built and was propping up Wendy Davis' black hole of a gubernatorial campaign in Texas, want to dive neck-deep into Florida politics? Isn't $2.3 million serious money?

None of the tort reformers I talked with knew for sure, but the conversation I had that made the most sense came from Darren McKinney, director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based American Tort Reform Association. McKinney knows the nature of Mostyn's game and identifies Florida, particularly South Florida, as a magnate for litigators. He believes Mostyn's interest was all about business expansion.

The courts are just plain friendly to plaintiffs in the Sunshine State, "and that appeals to all entrepreneurial plaintiff's attorneys like Steve Mostyn," he told me.

"Mostyn isn't George Soros, but if he's not a billionaire yet, he's close. He can set up shop anywhere in the country he likes, and I think he liked the look of Florida under Charlie Crist," McKinney said.

"It's the construct of the state Supreme Court. Four of the seven justices are due to leave the court before the next governor is out of office." He said if Crist were doing the choosing, the Florida court system would be an even greater treasure for trial lawyers. It's not just the Supreme Court, either. The governor fills empty seats on the bench with all the state's judges.

McKinney said Crist's election would have been an investment in Mostyn's future with an almost guaranteed payoff.

Mostyn is quite a player, make no mistake. He isthe largest funder of liberal candidates in Texas, candidates who oppose lawsuit reform and push a pro-lawsuit agenda.

Becase he knows most Texans are conservative and detest lawsuit abuse, he has created a number of groups with conservative-sounding names to pull the wool over voters' eyes.

A story on the Texans for Lawsuit Reform website, "The Invisible Hand of Steve Mostyn," describes how Mostyn puts up millions for deceptively named groups during election years -- groups that "back candidates who want to roll back the lawsuit reforms that are keeping the Texas economy strong."

Says the story, "Hes hoping voters wont realize that the money is coming from a liberal, personal injury trial lawyer whose primary agenda is, presumably, his own self-interest."

Have a look at some of the groups the story is talking about -- as confirmed by the Texas Ethics Commission:

Texans for Individual Rights was founded by Mark McCaig, an associate of Steve Mostyns law firm and another personal injury trial lawyer, Matthew Griffing. "This group pretends to support conservative principles but its real mission is to roll back the lawsuit reforms advocated by Texans for Lawsuit Reform and to push legislative proposals that would stifle job creation in Texas and create windfall profits for plaintiff lawyers."

Conservative Voters of Texas. Despite its conservative sounding name, this multimillion-dollar PAC was founded by Mostyn associate Mark McCaig in the last election cycle to attack pro-tort reform legislators and candidates. Exclusively funded by Mostyn, Conservative Voters of Texas spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2012.

Back to Basics PAC was created by Mostyn in 2010 to attack Gov. Rick Perry and other leaders and candidates who support lawsuit reform. The PAC spent over $4.5 million. Mostyn contributed $3,975,181 in 2010 alone, and another $377,060 in the 2012 election cycle.

Texans for Public Education, Texas Forward Committee, and the Valley Political Action Committee were all established by Mostyn in 2010 to allow him to contribute to individual candidates without voters knowing directly that the money was coming from him.

Mostyn is a stealth fighter, and I guess there's nothing wrong with that. No doubt he was heartily encouraged by stories of Crist's alleged quid pro quo arrangements -- judgeships for campaign contributions.

But I admit, it does my heart good to see political players with as much money as Mostyn has, with no real feel for the state they're playing in or the people who live there, whose political convictions are intertwined with their personal-business ambitions ... it does my heart so good to see them lose their investment at the polls. Take a bow, voters.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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