The purpose of a trip to Brazil by the governor and mostly other attorneys was to fish and not to talk about lawsuit reform or other legislative issues, the organizer said Tuesday. "there is not any business or politics or anything serious talked about on a fishing trip,” said Terry West, a Shawnee attorney and longtime family friend of Gov. Brad Henry. West said he booked the trip more than a year ago — long before the governor vetoed a lawsuit reform bill in April. "The trip would have gone forward, had there been no tort reform bill or if he had signed one,” he said. "It's just unrelated to legislative events.”Comments
What was discussed?West said the only time he recalled the subject of lawsuit reform coming up was late last week, when someone in the fishing party got an e-mail about news reports Henry was fishing on the Amazon with attorneys. Most of the conversation on the trip was about Henry catching the biggest fish, West said. "It got very tiresome because the governor caught the biggest fish early on and he mentioned it every night at dinner,” West said.
What do critics say?Critics of the Democratic governor continued this week to question Henry's going on the trip. "With Henry chummy as ever with Oklahoma's most powerful trial lawyers, it looks as if we are set for another tort reform showdown next legislative session,” Oklahoma GOP Chairman Gary Jones wrote in an e-mail message. "Republican lawmakers shouldn't back down from this fight, but Henry's current schmooze-cruise doesn't make the fight any easier.”
Who went on trip, who paid?West said his son, Brad, grew up next door to Henry in Shawnee and had gone on hunting and fishing trips with him nearly annually for nearly 30 years. "It doesn't seem like anything unusual to us, but when he gets to be governor, it seems like it becomes more interesting,” West said. "The curiosity, I suppose, is that people who went were trial lawyers and that's, I guess, primarily a result that most of my friends are lawyers.” West said 10 of the 18 anglers on the 10-day trip that ended Monday were lawyers, and that some on the trip had not known Henry before. The governor paid his own way for the trip. The state, as required by law, paid the costs of his security detail. The normal charge for the fishing trip, according to the charter company's Web site, is $4,250 a person. Henry declined to comment.