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During his failed campaign last year for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida, self-proclaimed anti-corruption crusader Larry Klayman made 26 trips to Cleveland. “Not a very good way to win,” Klayman, a Republican, acknowledges now. But he spent that time in Ohio anyway because his ex-wife and two young children live in Cleveland. Klayman won just 1.1 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. But now Klayman has hit on a plan to combine family, his Miami law practice, and his penchant for Washington politics, where he made a mark with legal efforts against both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations with his organization Judicial Watch. Last month, the Cleveland-based law firm Walter & Haverfield announced that Klayman is opening an office for the firm in Miami. Klayman, 54, will also serve as a lobbyist for the 50-lawyer firm’s government relations section in Washington, D.C. The firm’s managing partner in Cleveland, Ralph Cascarilla, did not return calls for comment. Klayman says he plans to use contacts made during his U.S. Senate campaign to develop the firm’s book of business in Florida. And he hopes to turn the firm’s Washington office into a major force for Florida interests. “There aren’t many [Florida] firms that have Washington expertise,” he says. “As we become even more important as a state, Florida companies and individuals are going to need Washington representation more and more. And it’s not going to be just Greenberg Traurig and Holland & Knight representing them.” MIGRATING SOUTH The push by Walter & Haverfield, which was founded in 1932, into Florida is reflective of Cleveland’s industrial wane and South Florida’s economic rise. “There’s a lot of synergy between Ohio and Florida,” Klayman said. “Our market in Ohio has contracted, so we’re moving south with the industry.” Klayman has been working with the firm for about two months. In that time, he’s been striving to drum up business for the firm. He recently returned from representing the firm on a trip to France with the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic development organization. Klayman, who says he speaks French and Italian, hopes to attract legal work from European companies that do business in Florida. “It’s not just the Hispanic community and Latin America [investing in Miami],” Klayman says. “The French are the second-biggest investors in Miami-Dade County. This will be a good opportunity for me, the law firm, and for Miami.” Early last week, Klayman was driving across Central Florida, “out beating the bushes for business” in the Orlando area. He also has some clients from his old firm, the Klayman Law Firm, where he worked with another attorney, Fred Sujat. The firm offered a general legal practice, as well as investigative and public relations services. One of the firm’s most noted cases was the federal civil suit against the U.S. government for tear-gassing bystanders during the raid to seize young Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives’ home. Klayman represented the plaintiffs, who lost after a bench trial this spring, according to the Associated Press. During the trial, attorney Michael Hurley, representing 12 bystanders, called the gassing “an overreaction” and argued that agents went beyond the raid plan, which called for the use of gas only after an order was given to repel “a mass breach” of demonstrators at a barricade. No order was given, and there was no major breach. Klayman, who represented one bystander, claims immigration agents were “paying back the Cuban community” for the prolonged custody fight. He says then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the raid “following the instructions of the Cuban government.” SUING THE GOVERNMENT Klayman, a native of Rosemont, Pa., cut his political teeth in the mid-1970s as an aide to Republican Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania. He later graduated from Emory University law school in Georgia and was admitted to the Florida Bar. From 1979 to 1981, Klayman worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Justice Department. He began to learn Italian during a failed marriage to an Italian woman. He studied French in the south of France. Klayman also has been involved in international politics, testifying before the French and Italian parliaments in 2003, urging them to support economic sanctions against Cuba. He says his linguistic skills and international background will help score business in Miami. The Walter & Haverfield Miami office is located in Klayman’s old office space on the 28th floor of the Citibank building in downtown Miami. Four of the firm’s attorneys are Florida Bar members, and will aid Klayman in his Florida legal work. “They will be down here periodically manning the fort,” Klayman says. “But as we grow, we will hire more people down here.” Klayman says the firm will be a general corporate practice, but will also be active in public interest law, the realm where Klayman gained national attention. Klayman has been a thorn in the side of both Democrats and Republicans in his self-proclaimed quest to expose government corruption. In 1994 he founded watchdog group Judicial Watch to carry out his mission. In the 1990s, Klayman had the Clinton administration in his sights, filing lawsuit after lawsuit to expose alleged cover-ups in the Commerce Department trade missions and the suicide of White House aide Vincent Foster. Some observers considered his lawsuits partisan and kooky, but they took a political toll on the administration. When George W. Bush became president, Klayman demonstrated that he would go after Republicans, too. He sued the Bush administration in an unsuccessful attempt to gain access to documents and information about Vice President Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force. Now, in the midst of the Valerie Plame scandal, Klayman says he wants to become an advocate for the news media. New York Times reporter Judith Miller recently was jailed for her refusal to discuss her possible contacts with Bush administration sources who may have broken the law by outing Plame as a CIA operative. “We’ve got potential clients in the media, where we’re going to help defend the media from attacks like you’ve seen with Judith Miller,” Klayman says. While Klayman is now busy at work with his new law firm project, he makes no promises to stay out of politics. “I’m still dabbling,” he says. “I don’t know what I’m going to do in the future. I really enjoy being a private lawyer, but I’ll do what I think is right.”
Jessica M. Walker is a staff writer for the Miami Daily Business Review, the ALM publication where this article first appeared.

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