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When Alan Grayson of McLean, Va.’s Grayson & Kubli kicked off his bid for Congress in the 8th District of Florida, his campaign materials used a quote from The Wall Street Journal labeling him a “one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq.” Central to that characterization was a high-profile jury verdict Grayson won in March on behalf of two whistle-blowers in a False Claims Act fraud suit against Iraq contractor Custer Battles. What the rarely understated Grayson has been leaving out of his campaign literature, however, is that earlier this month a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated much of that verdict on the grounds that the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, which hired Custer Battles, wasn’t a U.S. government entity and thus wasn’t covered by the False Claims Act. Grayson, who labeled the company’s co-founders, Scott Custer and Michael Battles, “war whores” and was scolded by Judge T.S. Ellis for making a dirty joke during the trial, says he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. But he’s not tempering his rhetoric. “Custer and Battles are pathetic, fundamentally evil people who will eventually end up in prison,” Grayson says. Robert Rhoad, a lawyer for Custer Battles in the D.C. office of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, calls Grayson’s statements hyperbole. “Mr. Grayson’s bitterness toward my clients is somewhat understandable since it appears he has based his congressional campaign in large part on what has become his failed case against them,” Rhoad said in a written statement. Meanwhile, Rhoad has taken issue with a Grayson campaign press release that touts Grayson for “enlisting the help of German police and prosecutors” in attempts to seize foreign assets controlled by the wife of Michael Battles — asserting that the effort to draw criminal authorities into a civil dispute violates court procedures. In a court filing, Grayson acknowledged that it was, in fact, German authorities who contacted him. Grayson’s opponents in the Sept. 5 Democratic primary, local marketing consultant Charlie Stuart and County Commissioner Homer Hartage, have tried to cast him as a Washington trial lawyer out of touch with the Orlando-based district. But Grayson, a former executive at IDT Corp., has won some name recognition in the region by committing $500,000 of his personal fortune to the campaign and blanketing the area with radio and television ads. He also claims to have 75 paid staffers working the phones and canvassing the streets. “I never count anybody out that has a lot of money,” says Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. Despite Grayson’s push, Jewett says the front-runner is still Stuart, the scion of a prominent local family. Even if Grayson pulls off an upset, he’ll remain an underdog in the general election and will need a strong anti-Bush tide to beat Republican incumbent Rep. Richard Keller. “In a normal year, Keller’s not particularly vulnerable,” Jewett says.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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