You are here

TLR Advocate December 2010

A Sweeping Victory for Lawsuit Reform

The 2010 Elections Advance the Cause of Tort Reform

Whither the Texas Democratic Party?

Massive Trial Lawyer Campaign Spending Continues in 2010

A Sweeping Victory for Lawsuit Reform

Headshot of Dick WeekleyThe November 2nd elections in Texas were not only traditional partisan contests, but also a reflection of the continuing battle to maintain and improve the successful lawsuit reforms of the last fifteen years, which have helped make Texas the best state in the nation in which to start or grow a business and create jobs. A handful of personal injury trial lawyers spent millions of dollars in a futile effort to elect legislators who would roll back or diminish tort reform. One trial lawyer, Steve Mostyn, put in nearly ten million dollars of his own money to influence Texas elections in this cycle. In contrast, the funding for TLR PAC, and therefore for the candidates we support, comes from scores of different professions and occupations, including homemakers, consultants, retailers, ranchers, farmers, manufacturers, miners, developers, entrepreneurs, physicians, lawyers, accountants … and the list goes on.

The 2010 elections resulted in a significant improvement in the Texas Legislature for the cause of a fair, balanced and predictable civil justice system in Texas. Our State has made great strides in improving our litigation system since TLR came on the scene in 1994. Texas used to be ridiculed throughout the world as "The Wild West of Litigation," but now we are an admired leader in discouraging or preventing abusive litigation. Texas tort reform is widely acknowledged around the nation as being an essential factor in making Texas the nation's leader in job creation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas created over one-half of all of the net new jobs created in America for the period of August 2009 to August 2010. Economic growth and job creation allow families to support themselves and provide a tax base that can support essential government services such as public safety and education. Compare well-governed Texas, which created 119,000 new jobs, to California, which lost 112,000 jobs in the same period.

In the 27 truly contested fall races in which TLR actively participated, 25 TLRsupported candidates won. This is our report on the contested fall races and on the most meaningful primaries last spring. We hope you will support our PAC efforts with financial contributions and volunteer efforts, because your support is critical to our continuing success.

Dick Weekley Signature

The 2010 Elections Advance the Cause of Tort Reform

This year's primary and general elections for state offices produced stellar results for civil justice issues. TLR played a significant role in numerous campaigns, which would not be possible without your continued financial and volunteer support for TLR.

Governor Rick Perry

Headshot of Rick PerryGovernor Rick Perry was the only statewide officeholder who faced a serious contest. The Governor won decisively with 54.97% of the vote. TLR PAC contributed $156,000 to Governor Perry's campaign. With Governor Perry's leadership, Texas has enacted the most comprehensive lawsuit reforms in our nation's history, and successfully defended against hundreds of efforts to dilute or repeal reforms. The Governor consistently appoints men and women of the highest caliber to the Texas judiciary. Rick was viciously attacked by Steve Mostyn, the incoming president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, through Mostyn's “Back to Basics” political action committee.

Judicial Races

Headshot of Eva GuzmanTLR PAC supported the three conservative incumbent Supreme Court Justices who were challenged by opponents funded by personal injury trial lawyers. Justices Paul Green, Eva Guzman and Debra Lehrmann all handily won re-election.

Headshot of Mellisa GoodwinThere were several important appellate court races around the State, one of which was seriously in play: an open seat on the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. TLR supported Melissa Goodwin and she won with 57.13% of the vote.

The Texas Senate:

Headshot of Brian BirdwellThere were no seriously contested State Senate races. It is notable, however, that Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) resigned his seat and was replaced in a special election by Brian Birdwell (R), a former U.S. Army Colonel who was badly burned in the 9-11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Senator Birdwell has two brothers who are Texas judges. Sen. Averitt had aligned himself with the personal injury trial lawyer lobby in the 2009 legislative session.

The Texas House of Representatives

The most contested races, other than the Governor's race, were for State House seats. There were numerous House races in which a pro-trial lawyer Democratic incumbent was opposed by a pro-tort reform Republican challenger. In contested races, the Republican challengers won twenty-one seats against incumbent Democrats who were allied with the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA). There were two pro-reform Democratic incumbents who had general election challenges. In those two races, Rep. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs lost and Rep. Mark Strama of Travis County won. There were six pro-tort reform Republican incumbents who had serious to semiserious challenges by Democrats backed by personal injury trial lawyers. All six of those Republican incumbents won: Representatives Doc Anderson, Dwayne Bohac, Joe Driver, Linda Harper-Brown, Tim Kleinschmidt and Ken Legler. Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) also won reelection; TLR PAC did not participate in his race.

The make-up of the Texas House in the 2009 session was 76 Republicans to 74 Democrats. The make-up of the Texas House in the 2011 session will be 99 Republicans to 51 Democrats. Several of those Democrats are philosophically aligned with TLR on civil justice issues and we hope to expand the number of Democrats who will support TLR's pro-jobs policies. Only a few of the 99 Republicans are not philosophically aligned with TLR, but we are not yet giving up on them. In sum, there will be a solid majority in the Texas House for a fair, balanced and predictable civil justice system.

continued below

Headshot of Richard J. Trabulsi

Whither the Texas Democratic Party?

A Democrat Has Not Been Elected To A Single Statewide Office Since 1994. Why?

My first active involvement in politics was during my freshman year in high school, when I would drive to the Shamrock Hilton hotel after school each day to work as a volunteer in the Kennedy-Johnson Harris County headquarters. Through my school days and early adulthood, I did volunteer work for presidential candidates Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Congressman Mike Andrews, Lt. Governors Ben Barnes and Bill Hobby, Governors John Connally, Dolph Briscoe and Mark White, Attorney General John Hill, and Mayor Fred Hofheinz, to name the most prominent Democrats for whom I campaigned, raised money, or even managed campaigns.

In those days, most Texas Democrats promoted both social progress and economic development. Their campaigns were financed by a broad segment of the Texas community. Today, the Texas Democratic Party has allowed itself to become snared in a net of campaign financing from a tiny sliver of the Texas community – in fact, almost all of its funding (over 90%) comes from a handful of extraordinarily wealthy mass tort plaintiff lawyers. In politics as in the economy, bad money drives out good. Because the mass tort lawyers – many of whom have engaged in litigation that most business people consider to be abusive in nature – are funding Democrats, business-oriented contributors flock to Republicans.

In the two year election cycle that ended on November 2 with a tidal wave of Republican victories in Texas, one trial lawyer put almost ten million dollars of his own money to fund Democratic candidates for state offices. He had exceedingly few victories. It is notable that no Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994, sixteen years ago. It is no accident that the decline of the Democratic Party in Texas elections coincides with the trial lawyer dominance of Democratic funding.

Fortunately, there are Democrats who believe that the tort reforms of recent years have been necessary to the creation of a fair, balanced and predictable civil justice system. And that our civil justice system, as a consequence of tort reform, is one of the reasons that Texas creates more jobs by far than other states. These Democrats know that abusive lawsuits harm business activity and destroy jobs, and that economic growth and wealth creation produce the tax revenues that are necessary for government to provide essential services such as public safety and education.

Unfortunately, because of the smothering trial lawyer influence in Democratic politics, it takes courage as well as conviction for an elected Democrat (or a Democratic candidate) to oppose the trial lawyer agenda. Democrats who support tort reform risk the vengeance of trial-lawyer funded opponents in primaries. Fortunately, there are Democratic legislators who have the requisite courage and conviction. But for the Democratic Party to become competitive again, there needs to be many more.

I believe a vigorous two party system is beneficial to governance, and I hope, both as a tort reformer and as a citizen interested in a wide range of public policies, that Texas Democrats will break the stranglehold of the personal injury trial bar, allowing more Democrats to embrace the pro-jobs policies that most Texans support. Only when Democratic candidates can again count on the financial support of the Texas business community, as did the Texas Democrats of my youth, will Democrats be in a position of strength to influence public policy in our State.

Signature of Richard J. Trabulsi

Headshot of Sherry Sylvester

Massive Trial Lawyer Campaign Spending Continues in 2010

By Sherry Sylvester, TLR Senior Communications Advisor

Personal injury trial lawyers broke their own record for campaign spending in Texas in the 2010 election cycle with contributions totaling over $17 million in contested races, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Once again, trial lawyers spent far more in campaign contributions than any other profession, business or industry group in Texas. A relatively new player on the scene, Houston hurricane attorney, Steve Mostyn, provided over half of that total – nearly ten million dollars. Mostyn and other wealthy trial lawyers backed candidates who would have worked to overthrow the lawsuit reforms that have created a fair and predictable civil justice system, bolstered the Texas economy in these tough times and increased access to health care throughout our state.

Fortunately, when the votes were counted on November 2, almost all trial lawyer-backed candidates were defeated.

Despite their near-total defeat at the polls this year, it is clear that the trial lawyers will continue their massive political spending in the future.

Governor Rick Perry, the strongest pro-tort reform governor in the country, was decisively re-elected despite the early contribution of a million dollars funneled through the Democratic Governors Association by Mostyn and three of the "Tobacco Five" attorneys, John Eddie Williams, Walter Umphrey and Harold Nix, who gained much of their wealth from their share in the $3.3 billion in attorneys' fees in the tobacco settlement for the State of Texas. (A scandal related to the Texas settlement with the tobacco companies that ultimately led to the indictment and conviction of former Attorney General Dan Morales.)

Steve Mostyn – Top Trial Lawyer Funder in 2010

Mostyn, the incoming president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, contributed $9,858,313* this election cycle, given mostly to political action committees, but also to individual candidates. Mostyn created the Back to Basics PAC, a political attack machine, which he used to target Governor Perry and launch vicious personal attacks against candidates who support lawsuit reform. Mostyn also almost single-handedly funded the House Democratic Campaign Committee and was the largest contributor to Texans for Insurance Reform, another trial lawyer political action committee with a name that hides from the public the fact that 99% of its contributions came from personal injury trial lawyers.

Mostyn also supported other anti-lawsuit reform candidates and funded those candidates through several newly created political action committees, including Texans for Public Education, the Texas Forward Committee, Turn Texas Blue and the Valley Political Action Committee.

Mostyn, who has been disciplined by the State Bar Association for settling a case without his client's consent, see, was the lead attorney in the recent $189 million Texas Windstorm Insurance Association settlement of Hurricane Ike claims, which reportedly netted about $75 million in attorneys' fees.

Mostyn has gone to court to keep the details of the settlement secret. At least two state lawmakers – State Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) and State Rep Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) – have filed windstorm cases with Mostyn. State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (D-San Antonio) is “of counsel” to Mostyn's firm. Dunnam, who has led the effort in the Texas House against tort reform, was defeated by Marva Beck on November 2.

continued below

TLR PAC supported 19 Republican challengers against Democratic incumbents tied to the personal injury trial lawyers:

HeadshotJim Murphy vs. Kristi Thibaut (D-Houston), HD 133. Murphy won 56.26% to 42.43%. Jim spent approximately $427,500. TLR PAC contributed $43,000. Jim is a businessman and civic leader who represented this district once before.

HeadshotCindy Burkett vs. Robert Miklos (D-Mesquite), HD 101. Burkett won 51.78% to 48.21%. Cindy spent approximately $668,400. TLR PAC contributed $215,300. Cindy is an owner and operator of a small business and a former assistant to State Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville).

HeadshotStefani Carter vs. Carol Kent (D-Dallas), HD 102. Carter won 54.65% to 45.34%. Stef spent approximately $1,045,500. TLR PAC contributed $515,000. Stef is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former prosecutor. She is a prodigious campaigner.

HeadshotBill Zedler vs. Chris Turner (D-Arlington), HD 9. Zedler won 52.39% to 47.6%. Bill spent approximately $479,500. TLR PAC contributed $312,800. Bill is a Viet Nam vet, had an active career in the health care industry, and formerly represented this district.

HeadshotJim Landtroop vs. Joe Heflin (D-Crosbyton), HD 85. Landtroop won 61.62% to 38.37%. Jim spent approximately $630,600. TLR PAC contributed $361,000. Jim is a State Farm insurance agent; he and his wife, Cathy, worked diligently for years to achieve this resounding victory.

HeadshotErwin Cain vs. Mark Homer (D-Paris), HD 3. Cain won 56.61% to 41.5%. Erwin spent approximately $655,200. TLR PAC contributed $181,200. Erwin is a lawyer and former chair of the Hopkins County Republican Party; he won every one of the six counties in his District.

HeadshotDee Margo vs. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), HD 78. Margo won 52.38% to 47.61%. Dee spent approximately $527,654. TLR PAC contributed $176,300. Dee is in the insurance business and has been active in the business, philanthropic and political affairs of El Paso.

HeadshotLarry Gonzales vs. Diana Maldonado (D-Round Rock), HD 52. Gonzales won 57.45% to 37.99%. Larry spent approximately $638,574. TLR PAC contributed $310,700. Larry has a direct mail business, has worked in various capacities for legislators and the Lt. Governor, and has a family who is deeply rooted in public education.

HeadshotConnie Scott vs. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), HD 34. Scott won 53.96% to 46.03%. Connie spent approximately $544,700. TLR PAC contributed $167,600. Connie is a veteran of the tort reform movement, having led the Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Her husband, Mike, has long been active in TLR.

HeadshotGeorge Lavender vs. Stephen Frost (D-New Boston), HD 1. Lavender won 51.51% to 40.81% in this East Texas district. George spent approximately $660,800. TLR PAC contributed $302,600. George is a small businessman in the electronics distribution business.

HeadshotKenneth Sheets vs. Allen Vaught (D-Dallas), HD 107. Sheets won 51.36% to 46.48%. Kenneth spent approximately $412,900. TLR PAC contributed $107,500. Kenneth is a lawyer, an Iraqi War vet, and a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves. Vaught is a personal injury trial lawyer with Baron & Budd.

HeadshotMarva Beck vs. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), HD 57. Beck won 51.67% to 45.76%. Marva spent approximately $848,600. TLR PAC contributed $594,200. Marva is a retired rancher and an active conservationist, who took on one of the bestknown House incumbents when very few observers thought she had even a slim chance of success. Dunnam is a personal injury trial lawyer who has led the opposition to tort reform in the Texas House.

HeadshotRaul Torres vs. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. (D-Corpus Christi), HD 33, Corpus Christi. Torres won 52.5% to 47.49%. Raul spent approximately $293,600. TLR PAC contributed $75,000. Raul is an accountant and financial consultant. Ortiz is the son of longtime Congressman Solomon Ortiz, Sr.

HeadshotJose Aliseda vs. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles (D-Alice), HD 35. Aliseda won 52.99% to 47%. Jose spent approximately $260,200. TLR PAC contributed $90,700. Jose is a former County Judge of Bee County and is a practicing lawyer who previously served on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

HeadshotJames White vs. Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin), HD 12. White won 57.62% to 42.37%. James spent approximately $360,500. TLR PAC contributed $138,400. James is a teacher, coach and rancher, and a veteran of the U.S. Army. McReynolds, who had served for seven terms, said that Texans had to accept whatever Washington, D.C. “sent to us.”

HeadshotBarbara Nash vs. Paula Pierson (D-Arlington), HD 93, Tarrant County. Nash won 49.27% to 47.59%. Barbara spent approximately $220,000. TLR PAC contributed $81,600. Barbara, who has served on city council and the school board, is a real estate investor.

HeadshotRodney Anderson vs. Kirk England (D-Grand Prairie), HD 106, Dallas County. Anderson won 49.45% to 48.49%. Rodney spent approximately $161,600. TLR PAC contributed $17,300. Rodney is in the title business and showed vision and tenacity in his uphill battle to win this seat; he stood at the polling places in a cold rain for 12 hours on election day, which may have made the difference in this close race.

HeadshotPaul Workman vs. Valinda Bolton (D-Austin), HD 47. Workman won 49.68% to 46.18%. Paul spent approximately $392,600. TLR PAC contributed $59,000. Paul is in the construction business, is a national director of the Associated General Contractors of America, and has been active in the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

HeadshotJack O'Connor vs. Hubert Vo (D-Houston), HD 149. O'Connor lost 47.77% to 52.22%. Jack spent approximately $174,800. TLR PAC contributed $41,600.

Two Republican challengers won in races in which TLR PAC did not make financial contributions:

HeadshotJohn Garza vs. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio), HD 117. Garza won 51.87% to 48.12%. John is an architect and is in the real estate business; he won this seat without serious funding. Leibowitz is a personal injury trial lawyer who repeatedly treated tort reform witnesses rudely in the hearings of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. The San Antonio Express News revealed that Leibowitz did not live in the district he represented.

HeadshotSarah Davis vs. Ellen Cohen (D-Houston), HD 134. Davis won 50.7% to 49.29%. Sarah is a breast cancer survivor and a defense lawyer, who received degrees from Baylor and the University of Houston Law School. She campaigned tirelessly through the hot, sticky summer months to lay the foundation for her victory.

TLR expects to work closely with Representatives-Elect Garza and Davis.

TLR PAC supported two Democratic incumbents in challenged races:

HeadshotIncumbent Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) vs. Jason Isaac, HD 45. Rose lost 46.09% to 53.9%. TLR PAC contributed $91,000 to Rose. Patrick is an able young man who was a stalwart on TLR's issues in the three sessions he served; he has a bright future. Representative-Elect Isaac is a conservative businessman who publicly has expressed support for tort reform.

HeadshotIncumbent Mark Strama (D-Austin) vs. Patrick McGuinness, HD 50. Strama won 54.85% to 41.71%. TLR PAC contributed $42,500 to Strama. Mark is a committee chair and a talented Member.

TLR PAC supported six Republican incumbents in challenged races; each of these Members have been strong supporters of tort reform:

HeadshotLinda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) vs. Loretta Haldenwang, HD 105. Harper-Brown won 51.7% to 44.9%. TLR PAC contributed $109,000.

HeadshotKen Legler (R-Pasadena) vs. Rick Molina, HD 144. Legler won 59.43% to 38.29%. TLR PAC contributed $26,000.

HeadshotTim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington) vs. Pati Jacobs, HD 17. Kleinschmidt won 65.07% to 31.95%. TLR PAC contributed $16,000.

HeadshotJoe Driver (R-Garland) vs. Jamie Dorris, HD 113. Driver won 57.15% to 42.84%. TLR PAC contributed $5,000.

HeadshotDwayne Bohac (R-Houston) vs. Kendra Yarbrough Camarena, HD 138. Bohac won 62.54% to 35.49%. TLR PAC contributed $16,000.

HeadshotDoc Anderson (R-Waco) vs. John Mabry, HD 56. Anderson won 58.47% to 37.88%. TLR PAC contributed $67,000. Mabry is a personal injury trial lawyer in Jim Dunnam's law firm; this is his second loss for this seat.

The March Republican and Democratic primary elections produced many notable changes, including:

HeadshotLance Gooden (R) defeated Incumbent Betty Brown (R-Athens) in HD 4. Betty was a strong supporter of lawsuit reform and TLR is grateful to Betty for her public service. Lance has been engaged with the business community since his election and is expected to favor a pro-jobs legislative agenda.

HeadshotDavid Simpson (R) defeated incumbent Tommy Merritt (R-Longview) in HD 7. Tommy supported tort reform and was a long-serving Member. David is a former mayor and is an active businessman who campaigned on a solidly conservative platform.

HeadshotChuck Hopson (R) represented this district as a Democrat before becoming a Republican earlier this year. Chuck, who has consistently supported tort reform in the last four sessions, won both the Republican primary and the general election with large margins.

HeadshotCharles Schwertner (R) won an open seat vacated by Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown) in HD 20. Charles is an orthopedic surgeon and his wife is an obstetrician. Tort reform is a major reason why Texas has added almost 20,000 new doctors in recent years, especially in high-risk specialties like surgery and child delivery.

HeadshotTara Rios Ybarra (D-South Padre Island) lost her seat in HD 43. Tara was first elected in 2008 with TLR's strong support. Tara is a dentist with a booming practice in Brownsville, and we expect her to continue to be a community leader. J.M. Lozano (D) of Kingsville won the seat; he is a small businessman and his father, sister and brother-in-law are physicians in South Texas.

HeadshotVan Taylor (R) won an open seat vacated by Brian McCall (R-Plano) in HD 66. Van is an investor and former Marine Corps officer, who favors policies that grow the economy and create jobs for Texans.

HeadshotLanham Lyne (R) won an open seat vacated by David Farabee (D-Wichita Falls) in HD 69. Lanham handily won the Republican primary and the general election. He is in the oil and gas business and has been a successful and popular mayor of Wichita Falls.

HeadshotNaomi Gonzalez (D) defeated longtime incumbent Norma Chavez (D-El Paso) in HD 76 in the Democratic primary. Naomi is a highly-motivated, hard-working young woman who was a lawyer in the Civil Unit of the El Paso County Attorney's office. She is a past president of the Mexican American Bar Association in El Paso. Ms. Chavez was known as one of the most volatile and disruptive Members of the Texas House and was closely aligned with the personal injury trial lawyers.

HeadshotCharles Perry (R) defeated incumbent Delwin Jones (R-Lubbock) in HD 83. Delwin supported tort reform and we appreciate his many years of service in the House. Charles is a CPA and land developer who we believe will be a strong advocate for policies that promote economic growth for our State.

HeadshotJohn Frullo (R) won the open seat vacated by Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) in HD 84. Carl supported tort reform and we thank him for his service to Texas. John is a CPA and owns a printing and graphics company. He recognizes that a fair and balanced civil justice system is necessary to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

HeadshotFour Price (R) won the open seat vacated by David Swinford (R-Amarillo) in HD 87. David supported TLR's initiatives and served his District and our State admirably. Four is a lawyer who is President-Elect of the Amarillo Bar Association and a Director of the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.

HeadshotLyle Larson (R) won the open seat vacated by Frank Corte (R-San Antonio) in HD 122. Frank was a real warrior on tort issues and we appreciate his role in the passage of historic tort reform in Texas. Lyle is a successful businessman and community leader, who has served as a San Antonio city councilman and a Bexar County Commissioner.

HeadshotDan Huberty (R) won the open seat vacated by Joe Crabb (R-Kingwood) in HD 127. Dan is an executive in a natural gas company, Clean Energy, and served as president of the Humble ISD. He brings a wealth of business experience and community service to the House.


Fred Baron's “Texas Democratic Trust” Shuts Down

Mostyn followed the model of the late asbestos lawyer, Fred Baron, in creating a number of political action committees with names that served to mask direct trial lawyer contributions to candidates. Baron, who died in 2008, established the Texas Democratic Trust in 2005 and announced his goal to revitalize the Democratic Party and take the state back from conservatives and tort reform advocates. Baron's target was to regain a number of statewide offices and seats on the Texas Supreme Court and capture a majority in the Texas Legislature before the 2010 redistricting process.

Baron spent an estimated $15 million on the Democratic Trust, which has been the primary funder for the Texas Democratic Party for the past five years. The Democratic Trust also funded the Texas Progress Council, which does opposition research, and the Texas Values in Action Coalition, which pushes trial lawyer backed candidates in North Texas. The Democratic Trust had provided most of the funding for the House Democratic Campaign Committee until this year, when Mostyn provided about sixty percent of the funding for that group.

Baron's widow, Lisa Blue, who is also a personal injury trial lawyer and was a partner in her late husband's firm, contributed $1,556,586** to the Democratic Trust this election cycle, making her the second largest Democratic contributor in Texas. Following the election, Baron's Washington based political operative, Matt Angle, announced that the Democratic Trust would shut down after the 2010 election, as Baron had planned. Despite spending millions, the Texas Democratic Trust did not achieve their goal. They failed to elect even one statewide officeholder or Supreme Court justice and now hold 12 fewer seats in the State Legislature than when they started.

The “Tobacco Five” – A Decade of Big Campaign Spending

Before Baron and Mostyn, the top Texas trial lawyer campaign contributors were the five Texas trial lawyers who shared the $3.3 billion fee awarded in the 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and the State of Texas.

Then Attorney General Dan Morales selected Beaumont attorneys Walter Umphrey and Wayne Reaud, Houston attorneys John O'Quinn and John Eddie Williams and Dangerfield attorney Harold Nix to handle the lawsuit, which was virtually identical to similar lawsuits in a number of other states. Morales was later convicted for felonious conduct related to the tobacco settlement.

The “Tobacco Five” immediately began pouring millions of dollars into Texas political campaigns to try to stop the tort reform movement, but Texans continued to enthusiastically embrace lawsuit reforms and were electing lawmakers who would stand up to personal injury trial lawyers.

O'Quinn, who made the largest single campaign contribution in Texas history, $2.2 million to failed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell, died in 2009, but the remaining “Tobacco Five” lawyers are still major contributors to groups that funnel trial lawyer contributions to legislative candidates. Williams contributed $1,428,773** in 2010 and Nix (Nix Patterson Roach) contributed $908,880.** (For TLR's 2002 report on the “Tobacco Five” see “Hiding Their Influence” under special reports at

Trial Lawyer Funding in Local Judicial Races

Personal injury trial lawyers also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to local judges in many Texas counties. In 2010, Mostyn contributed $923,942** to a political action group he created, the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials, which not only provided campaign funds to dozens of local judges, but also bankrolled “Get Out the Vote” activities in Harris County (Houston). Republican judicial candidates nevertheless swept the judicial elections in Harris County.


In San Antonio, personal injury trial attorney Mikal Watts, who once bragged that his campaign contributions had gained him influence over Nueces County judges and the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi (see Houston Chronicle, Sept 5, 2007), combined with other local personal injury trial lawyers to fund “Get Out the Vote” operations in Bexar County using his own political action committee, innocuously named “Vote Texas.”

Despite their defeat at the polls this year, the contribution history of personal injury trial lawyers for more than a decade makes it clear that they will continue their massive spending in Texas politics. They clearly believe if they are successful in reversing a single tort reform, they would be on their way to undermining the Texas protections against lawsuit abuse – in medical liability, asbestos-silica, workers compensation, class actions, venue and other areas of the law. They know that if they can change the laws so that even one jackpot judgment or settlement is achieved, their campaign spending would have been worthwhile.

Lawsuit reform advocates must remain vigilant to make sure they are not successful, which is why TLR needs your continued financial and volunteer support.

* Including contributions to the Democratic Governors Association.
** All campaign finance contributions referenced in this report were obtained from the Texas Ethics Commission,