Trial lawyer-funded mailer attacks candidate for being a, um, “trial lawyer”

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What does it say about trial lawyers, when the worst they can say about a candidate is calling them … a “trial lawyer?”

A new mailer from supporters of former banker Jay Fant has begun to hit mailboxes this week in the GOP primary for House District 15.

The contentious race pits Fant, a “small businessman” who served as CEO of Jacksonville’s First Guaranty Bank for nine years before federal regulators shut it down for mismanagement, against attorney Paul Renner to succeed State Rep. Daniel Davis for the region covering western Jacksonville and much of Duval County.

The mailer puts photos of “small businessman” Fant side-by-side with “trial lawyer” Renner, asking voters to decide. Prominently featured are Fant’s endorsements: 40 small business leaders, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Florida Retail Federation.

“Lawyer shaming” is not the newest political tactic, but slamming an attorney with a “trial lawyer” label is not the smartest move  – especially if you are supported by trial lawyers.

The pro-Fant flyer comes from an outside group called Conservative Leadership Fund — chaired by Republican political consultant Mike Hanna.

Conservative Leadership Fund, which apparently believes trial lawyers are about as bad as you can get, is itself heavily supported by — you guessed it — trial lawyers.

On Aug. 8, Conservative Leadership Fund received $10,000 from One on One Communications, a Miami-based firm led by Joe Navas, which in turn has received thousands of dollars in contributions from a third group, Citizens for Florida Prosperity.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, Citizens for Florida Prosperity, which is headed by Venice Republican activists Eric and Christine Robinson, has benefited from years of support — and tens of thousands of dollars – from several high profile law firms from all over Florida, such as Orlando’s Morgan & Morgan and Abbot Law Group in Tallahassee.

However, some of the largest contributions to Citizens for Florida Prosperity have come from Florida Justice PAC, the state’s leading political arm representing trial lawyers.

That’s right — the people behind a flyer using “trial lawyer” as a pejorative are themselves trial lawyers.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.