Trial lawyers suspend top two execs and political directorby Dara Kam | October 16th, 2009
The state’s trial lawyer association suspended Executive Director Scott Carruthers, Deputy Executive Director Paul Jess and political director Albert Balido for their involvement in a racially-tinged flyer targeting then-candidate John Thrasher.
“We repeat FJA’s apology for our financial role in the offensive and appalling absentee mail piece,” FJA President Michael Haggard said in a press release.
Haggard asked former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan to investigate the mailer and released Kogan’s report today after a board of directors’ meeting in Orlando.
The mailer sent to potential absentee voters was aimed at persuading Jacksonville residents to vote against Thrasher, a Republican, in the race to replace the late Sen. Jim King. Thrasher, a former House Speaker, later won the election.
The mailer depicted Black Panthers, President Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and a group of blacks holding an ACORN sign and was captioned “Is this the change you want to believe in?”
Kogan’s report, slightly longer than three pages, found that the three FJA executives were the only members of the organization who had knowledge of the flyer that drew outrage from Republicans and black lawmakers.
Everyone questioned about the mailer found it “outrageous, shocking, disgusting and contradicting everything FJA represents,” Kogan wrote in his report.
The trial lawyers initially distanced themselves from the mailer then admitted that Balido had hired political consultant Bill Helmich to come up with the last-minute attack.
“Bill, did it have to be so over the top?” Balido asked when initially shown the mail piece, according to Kogan’s report.
FJA promised that an oversight committee would review all campaign materials and expenditures in the future, according to the press release. (Read about FJA’s campaign spending at a bondage bar and a trendy South Beach night club here.)
The press release did not identify the three executives by name but said that “all three staff members specifically identified in the Kogan Report for their involvement in the matter have been temporarily suspended.”