Trial attorneys form groups to defeat lawmakers who voted for changing the civil justice system
The three political action committees with conservative-sounding names are mostly funded by Democratic trial lawyers. They have contributed $40,500 to five GOP candidates challenging lawmakers who voted last year for a bill that capped pain and suffering damages.
Three political action committees with conservative-sounding names funded mostly by trial attorneys have given $40,500 to five Republican challengers opposing GOP legislators who voted last year for a bill that capped the pain and suffering damages that could be awarded in lawsuits, records show.
Most of the trial lawyers who contributed to the political action committees are Democrats.
Usually trial lawyers contribute to Democratic lawmakers, most of whom oppose capping damages in civil lawsuits. But with Republicans in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the political action committees reveal a movement by trial attorneys to support Republicans who will oppose keeping the caps or approving further restrictions on lawsuit awards.
“They have never played on the other side, ever,” said Pat Hall, a consultant and former executive director of the state Democratic Party.
There is nothing illegal about the contributions, but political observers call it misleading.
“It's the changing political landscape,” said Neva Hill, a political consultant who has mostly Republican clients. “They have figured out that when the game is going to be the Republican primaries, the only way to inject themselves into that game is through tactics like this.”
The contributions were made to the GOP challengers to help them in their bids to defeat the incumbent legislators in Tuesday's primary elections.
The James Madison Political Action Committee, which describes itself as working to elect constitutional conservatives, is headed by Derek Burch, a Republican. Eleven of its 12 contributors are Democratic trial attorneys, records show.
The Defenders of the Constitution Political Action Committee, which describes its purpose as electing conservative legislators, is headed by Noble McIntyre, whose voting affiliation was not listed. Eight of its 10 contributors are Democratic trial attorneys, according to records.
The 7th Amendment Christian Coalition is headed up by James Dunn, who is Oklahoma's committeeman on the Republican National Committee. Thirteen of the 17 trial attorneys contributing to the group, which describes its purpose as electing good conservatives to the Legislature, are Democrats, records show. Two from the medical profession, a Democrat and an independent, also contributed.
Some attorneys contributed to all three political action committees.
Kevin McDugle, of Tulsa, received $10,000 from the committees in his bid to defeat Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, in the Senate District 39 race.
Paul Blair, of Edmond, received $7,500; he is challenging Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, for the Senate District 41 race.
Bob Dani, of Edmond, got $7,500 from the committees in his bid to unseat Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond, in the House District 39 race.
Darren Gantz, of Jenks, received $12,000 from the committees in his effort to beat Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, for the House District 68 seat.
Jeff Renner, of Oklahoma City, got $3,000 from the committees in his bid to unseat Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, for the House District 100 seat.
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