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Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman July 28, 2010

Dan Gelber continues 'junior lawyer' attack against Dave Aronberg

Time for another installment of Dan & Dave. No, not the decathletes featured in all those Reebok ads prior to the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.

We're talking about the two Democratic state senators running for attorney general, Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg.

In this story, Aronberg is accusing Gelber of distorting his legal experience. Gelber, Aronberg says, is distributing a flier that sums up Aronberg's legal experience this way: "Less than two years as Asst. AG/private attorney."

"It's one thing to talk about your own experience," Aronberg told PolitiFact Florida. "It's another thing to lie about your opponent's experience."

Chapter 1: Dave's work history

Aronberg graduated from Harvard Law School in 1996 and went to work for the law firm Steel, Hector and Davis, first in its Miami office, then in West Palm Beach. Aronberg says he worked on corporate litigation at the firm.

After a little over three years, in November 1999, Aronberg began a stint as an assistant attorney general under Bob Butterworth. According to records at the attorney general's office, Aronberg worked in Children's Legal Services until Aug. 17, 2000, when he was selected to be a White House Fellow.

He then spent a year working at the White House as a paid assistant in the Treasury Department. Aronberg told PolitiFact Florida he helped craft the country's anti-money laundering strategy.

After the White House, Aronberg returned to the attorney general's office, this time in the economic crimes division. According to AG records, Aronberg was employed as an assistant attorney general from Sept. 14, 2001, until Jan. 2, 2003, when he was sworn as a state senator. Aronberg did take a leave of absence from July 29, 2002, through Nov. 7, 2002, AG records show. Aronberg said the leave was to campaign for the state Senate.

In May 2003, Aronberg took a job with Greenspoon Marder in its West Palm Beach law office, where he works today.

By our math, that's three years at Steel, Hector and Davis, about two years in two stints at the attorney general's office, and then seven years at Greenspoon Marder -- 12 years of legal experience all together.

Chapter 2: Dan's explanation

When we asked the Gelber campaign for an explanation, they said they weren't questioning our math at all.

Look at how it was worded, they said. Exactly how it was worded.

Ok. Here's the exact style and format of the claim as it appears on the flier:

Less than two years as Asst. AG
/private attorney


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"It's two separate things," said Gelber campaign manager Christian Ulvert. "Line one, and line two." (You can see the flier for yourself by clicking here.)

Ulvert then worked up a detailed explanation of the fact that Aronberg has served less than two years as an assistant attorney general. We'll spare you the details and just say that the attorney general records we got say that Aronberg spent 21 and a half months on the job as an assistant AG.

Chapter 3: Common sense test

But of course that's not the point.

What is, is how you interpret the line in Gelber's flier: "Less than two years as Asst. AG/private attorney." Without an explanation, we asked four veteran St. Petersburg Times reporters to look at the flier and interpret the line about Aronberg.

Each reached the same conclusion: That Gelber is saying Aronberg has been an attorney for less than two years.

That's how we read it, too.

We should note that Gelber previously has questioned Aronberg's experience. "He is a junior lawyer at his best moment," Gelber told the St. Petersburg Times' editorial board on July 16, 2010.

Chapter 4: Dan and Dave, the conclusion

Dave Aronberg has been a practicing lawyer for about 12 years. Any suggestion that he's been a lawyer less time is untrue.

Is Gelber making that claim in his flier? Not technically. Gelber says his flier notes that Aronberg's been an assistant attorney general for less than two years (true) and also a private attorney (true).

But we find the wording and format pretty misleading. A less-deceptive way to say it, for instance, would be to reverse the lines: "private attorney/less than two years as Asst AG." Or how about: "Less than two years as assistant attorney general," period.

Despite that clever use of a second line and a slash, we think the typical reader will be misled. We rate Gelber's claim Barely True.

Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.

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Dan Gelber continues 'junior lawyer' attack against Dave Aronberg

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