Texas trial lawyers spend millions in 2008 election cycle to support Democratic candidates

Marilyn Tennissen Nov. 24, 2008, 10:00am

AUSTIN � Personal injury trial lawyers poured millions of dollars into Texas elections this cycle, including more than $6 million to front groups and the Texas Democratic Party, a grass roots organization reported Nov. 24.

Beginning January 1, campaign finance reports reveal hundreds of major campaign contributions from wealthy trial attorneys, including Beamont's Walter Umphrey and Wayne Reaud, determined to roll back lawsuit reform in Texas, according to Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

"The lawsuit industry has anted up millions this cycle to elect lawmakers who will work to reverse reforms and create more opportunities to file lawsuits," said TLR PAC Director Justin Unruh.

According to TLR, personal injury trial lawyers provided almost 90 percent of the campaign contributions to the Texas Democratic Party and an even larger percentage to Texans for Insurance Reform, a trial lawyer front group.

The Texas Democratic Trust reported raising $4,028,701 in contributions for state races in 2008 including $2,218,201 in contributions from Dallas personal injury trial attorney, the late Fred Baron, who acquired his wealth in mass asbestos lawsuits.

The Texas Democratic Party reported raising $3,950,470 almost all from personal injury trial lawyers.

Baron's Texas Democratic Trust reported $1,994,759 in contributions to the Democratic Party and dozens of other trial lawyers contributed $1,990,700.

Eighty-seven percent of all contributions to the Texas Democratic Party were from trial lawyers.

Though the trial lawyer tycoons also contributed to individual candidates, their biggest contributions were directed to the Texas Democratic Party and what TLR called two trial lawyer front groups which then funneled the dollars to legislative candidates.

In addition to Baron, Houston attorney John Eddie Williams, one of the Tobacco Five attorneys who shared a $3.3 billion tobacco fee, gave a total of $765,000 to the front groups and the Democratic Party.

San Antonio trial lawyer Mikal Watts, who has bragged that he could influence appellate court judges because of his campaign contributions, gave $480,000 total to the Texas Democratic Party and Texans for Insurance Reform.

Watts also contributed another $444,000 to his own political action committee. Although the PAC does not bear his name, Vote Texas is almost exclusively supported by Watts who uses the contributions to support opponents of lawsuit reform, the TLR claims.

Beaumont's Provost Umphrey and Reaud Morgan & Quinn also contributed to the trial lawyer groups and the Democratic Party. Provost Umphrey gave $375,000. Reaud Morgan Quinn gave $250,000.

Houston trial lawyer John O'Quinn also contributed $100,000 to the Texas Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Texans for Insurance Reform reported raising $1,722,150 of which $1,679,500 came from trial lawyers � 97 percent of their total contributions. Watts and the Tobacco Five trial lawyers all made six figure contributions.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC is the political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the state's largest civil justice reform organization. TLR is a bipartisan, volunteer-led coalition with more than 16,000 supporters residing in 818 Texas communities and representing 1,266 different businesses, professions and trades.

For more information about TLR visit www.tortreform.com.

2008 Election Cycle Trial Lawyer Contributions:

  • Texas Democratic Party
    Total Contributions: $3,950,470
    Trial Lawyer Contributions $3,450,933
    Trial Lawyer Percentage 87 percent

  • Texans for Insurance Reform
    Total Contributions $1,727,154
    Trial Lawyer Contributions $1,679,500
    Trial Lawyer Percentage 97 percent

  • Texas Democratic Trust
    Total Contributions $4,028,701
    Trial Lawyer Contributions $2,948,201
    Trial Lawyer Percentage 73 percent


  • Texas Democratic Party
    Mikal Watts ‐ $270,000
    Williams Kherkher Hart & Boundas LLP ‐ $265,000
    Nix Patterson & Roach ‐ $250,000
    Provost & Umphrey ‐ $250,000
    Fisher Boyd Brown Boudreaux & Huguenard � $100,000
    Frank Branson PC ‐ $105,000
    John O'Quinn ‐ $100,000
    Reaud and Associates ‐ $100,000
    Reaud Morgan & Quinn ‐ $100,000
    Waters & Kraus ‐ $100,000
    Richard Mithoff ‐ $100,000
    William Fred Hagans ‐ $100,000

  • Texans for Insurance Reform
    Mikal Watts ‐ $210,000
    Nix Roach Patterson $125,000
    Provost Umphrey $125,000
    Baron & Budd ‐ $100,000
    Williams Kherkher Hart $100,000
    Waters & Kraus $100,000
    Steve Mostyn $100,000*
    Reaud & Assoc ‐ $50,000
    Reaud Morgan & Quinn ‐ $50,000
    Simon Eddins & Greenstone LLP ‐ $50,000

  • Texas Democratic Trust
    Fred Baron $2,218,201
    John Eddie Williams $400,000
    Richard Mithoff $150,000
    Richard Laminack $100,000


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    8441 Gulf Freeway
    Houston, TX 77017

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