Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.
Now that President Obama has named Bill Daley, a JPMorgan Chase chairman whose loudest pronouncements over the past months have been to ridicule Obama's signature accomplishments -- as his chief of staff, it should be perfectly clear: Washington and big business go together like bread and butter.
People often speak of a "revolving door" in which politicians are culled from the corporate, financial, and legal ranks only to be spit back out into a comfy executive job after a term or two. But for Sen. George LeMieux of Fort Lauderdale, the plunge into politics was barely a dip of the toe.
During his appointed 18-month term, the folks over at his old law firm Gunster -- "A full-service law firm for business" -- kept a spot warm for him, and on Tuesday, he returned
to become the company's chief shareholder and chairman of its board of directors.
LeMieux came to politics as a young lawyer with the giant pro-business firm, when Charlie Crist brought him on board to orchestrate his campaign. LeMieux's loyalty was rewarded with a cabinet post as Governor Crist's chief of staff. He rejoined Gunster until 2009, when Republican senator Mel Martinez abruptly resigned from public service
to take a lobbying job with DLA Piper (he's now the Florida/Caribbean head of Chase Bank).
Crist was allowed to appoint someone to fill the seat until 2010 election, and he chose LeMieux. It was an interesting job offer: no chance of continuation past the election (though there's speculation he'll run in 2012), a predecessor of the same party, and full support from the governor. And it was not only expected, but something of a foregone conclusion that when his congressional duties were over, he'd return to a lucrative private-sector job.
While he was in office, LeMieux faced questions about a conflict of interest during his early years, when he was working out a deal between the state and railroad carrier FEC: both were listed as Gunster clients, and LeMieux was accused
of dual representation. During his stint in Congress, LeMieux towed the party line on issues like health reform, which surely pleased his once and future client BlueCross BlueShield
to no end.
Now the republican messiah Marco Rubio
has taken LeMieux's place, and Gunster is positively giddy about having someone with recent Capitol Hill experience in its 160-attorney roster. Here's CEO Bill Perry in a press release
: "The time George spent in Washington serving the people of Florida gives him a unique perspective on the challenges facing Florida businesses."
Now that LeMieux has moved from his senatorial offices behind a Jamba Juice on Federal Highway to the plush boardroom of Gunster, his old boss Charlie Crist has also moved on to the legal profession, taking a job
with Morgan & Morgan.