John Morgan compares Andrew Gillum to Bernie Madoff as campaign donation feud continues
Orlando attorney John Morgan compared former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to infamous con man Bernie Madoff on Monday, calling Gillum’s new nonprofit a “political Ponzi scheme” as he continued an increasingly bitter feud that exploded onto Twitter over the weekend.
Gillum’s group responded that “false attacks” on the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s integrity “accomplish nothing ‘for the people’ and need to be called out,” referring to Morgan’s law firm’s famous slogan.
Morgan has repeatedly called for Gillum to donate or return the $250,000 his firm donated to Forward Florida, the committee affiliated with Gillum’s campaign, in 2018. Morgan told the Sentinel Monday he was angered by a report in the Tampa Bay Times that Gillum was transferring $500,000 in funds from the committee to a nonprofit, Forward Florida Action, aimed at registering Democratic voters before the 2020 election.
The nonprofit would only be required to post a yearly report, not a monthly one as required for political committees.
Morgan called the new organization “a secret nonprofit slush fund” and threatened a lawsuit to recover some of the money given to Forward Florida.
“People invested with Madoff with a purpose, financial security,” Morgan said. “I invested in this campaign with a purpose, to help the most people with the least amount, the powerless. The money was for them, not him. He kept it for his own political future. It is a political Ponzi scheme. The end game is to continue to follow the money.
Morgan added, “We all know he isn’t going to register 1 [million] people or 100 [thousand]. It’s a joke and a lie. He should donate all of the money to a worthy cause. I didn’t give all that money to him but to a cause.”
Morgan had originally called on Gillum in May to donate some of his about $3 million in leftover campaign funds to paying off former felons’ fees and fines so they would be eligible to vote thanks to Amendment 4.
But Morgan upped the ante Sunday, tweeting, “Does anyone believe anything that comes out of this dude’s mouth? … We need to explore a lawsuit to recover the monies given in trust to @AndrewGillum and now in a slush fund.”
Morgan added, “Thank God for Florida that @GovRonDeSantis won.” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis defeated Gillum in November by about 34,000 votes, or less than 0.5%.
Gillum did not take kindly to Morgan’s criticism, responding on Twitter Sunday, “John, remember when you called me to drop out & work for Phil because you couldn’t let Gwen win?” Gillum was referring to fellow Democratic gubernatorial primary candidates Phil Levine, the former Mayor of Miami Beach, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who Gillum inched past in the primary to win the nomination.
“You only care about transactions and distractions,” Gillum wrote. “I don’t live on your plantation and I don’t take advice from Trump impersonators & DeSantis suck ups.”
Morgan responded he called on Gillum to drop out “because I’m not a socialist and I feared you could not win a general. Yet I still gave you money and lots of it so you could win but you kept it for yourself.”
Morgan also said he didn’t back Graham because she was against marijuana legalization, one of his key issues. Morgan launched the successful 2016 referendum campaign to legalize medical marijuana and is considering a 2020 campaign to legalize recreational marijuana.
“And race-baiting by referring to my ‘plantation’ is what people with something to hide do,” Morgan added.
Forward Florida responded Monday by criticizing Morgan’s endorsement of “DeSantis’s backwards agenda.”
“We will continue to push for a progressive future for Florida and register voters to flip this state blue in 2020,” the group said. “We welcome all progressives to join the tens of thousands already in this movement.”