Radnofsky's revival of the Big Tobacco Bonanza

The SE Texas Record Jul. 3, 2010, 4:43am

Barbara Ann Radnofsky would like to reprise the Great Texas Tobacco Settlement of 1998, which garnered $3.3 billion in attorneys fees for Beaumont's Walter Umphrey and Wayne Reaud, Houston's John O'Quinn and John Eddie Williams Jr., and Dangerfield's Harold Nix.

This time the target would be Wall Street financial firms.

Accusing specified firms of engaging in fraud and precipitating the current financial crisis, Radnofsky recently published a seven-page preparatory brief that would seek $18 billion in damages for Texas – a sum nearly identical to the Big Tobacco bonanza.

A candidate for state attorney general, Radnofsky evidently envisions herself following in the footsteps of former Attorney General Dan Morales, who hired the five very wealthy lawyers named above as outside counsel and thereby made possible their fabulous enrichment.

The filthy-rich-five, in turn, never lost sight of the source of their good fortune and showed their ample appreciation with generous campaign contributions to Morales and other Democrats on the state and national level.

If Radnofsky were to engineer another such windfall, her lawyer beneficiaries undoubtedly would show similar gratitude, hoping to perpetuate her tenure as attorney general and even propel her to greater political heights.

But what will the state and people of Texas gain, other than an enduring reputation for venality? We have nothing to show for the Big Tobacco shakedown 12 years ago and are not likely to see any personal or communal benefit from Radnofsky's revival of this sordid drama.

Will Radnofsky follow in Morales' footsteps? She may want to, but the voters will decide whether or not she assumes the mantle of state attorney general.

Morales may not be the best model to follow. In 2003, he went to prison after pleading guilty to falsifying documents in an effort to steer a portion of the state's tobacco settlement to a lawyer friend.

We would never want to see Radnofsky suffer a similar fate? More importantly, our preference would be not to give her a chance.

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