Monday, July 19, 2010

Florida must have attorney general who can sue BP

As a horrified nation watches daily news reports of oil washing up on our shores, it has become clear, as President Obama said, that this is “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”

The oil spill also presents the most important legal issue facing our state’s next attorney general, who will have to lead the state’s legal response to the actions of BP, Halliburton and Transocean. In my opinion, Florida’s next attorney general should not have worked for BP’s law firm.

For almost two months, the law firm Dan Gelber worked for until this month has been retained to represent BP in Florida. Because of this potential conflict of interest, I have serious concerns about the ability of my opponent in the Democratic primary to represent Florida against BP as attorney general. I fully realized that in raising this issue I would be accused of negative campaigning – as The Post did in a July 13 editorial. I strongly disagree.

I am tired of personal attacks in politics. But when the No. 1 issue facing the next attorney general is the impending lawsuit against BP, it is crucial to know that one of the attorney general candidates may be disqualified from leading the charge against BP. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see the potential conflict of interest when someone works for BP’s law firm and then sues BP as Florida attorney general.

If Dan Gelber is elected attorney general, can anyone doubt that BP’s first legal maneuver will be to remove him from the case? If BP succeeds, it means that one of the most important lawsuits in the history of our state will be relegated to outside counsel. Win or lose, these legal maneuvers will mean delays for Floridians who have lost their livelihoods and their homes because of BP’s oil spill.

Whether Florida’s next attorney general can sue BP is not only a relevant issue – it is the most important issue of this campaign.



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