David Yates Jan. 23, 2014, 6:25pm
HOUSTON (Legal Newsline) - Viewing him as a "bully" at the state capitol, a legal reform group suspects plaintiffs attorney Steve Mostyn will continue to spend millions of dollars on liberal politicians, such as state Sen. Wendy Davis, to ensure he has his way with the Texas legislature.
As previously reported, on Dec. 31 the Mostyn Law Firm donated $1 million to the Texas Victory Committee - a joint project of Wendy R. Davis for Governor and Battleground Texas, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. Davis is a democrat running for governor, likely against current Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott.
"Houston hurricane lawyer Steve Mostyn's massive contributions to Wendy Davis are no surprise - he has a history of helping the most liberal politicians in America," said Sherry Sylvester, spokesperson for Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.
"Mostyn is viewed as a bully in our state capitol as he does everything he can to expand the reach of litigation in order to reap ever higher awards and legal fees for personal injury and mass tort plaintiff lawyers."
Unlike the vast majority of states, Texas imposes no limits on the amount an individual can contribute to a state candidate.
So in other words, wealthy individuals spending big bucks to elect their chosen candidates and lobby the legislature defines Texas politics, according to one expert.
"The political climate in Texas is very distinctive; we have very low voter turnout compared to other states," said Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University.
The SMU professor believes there is a correlation between the low voter turnout and the fact that a handful of rich Texans spend small fortunes every year to influence elections - a scenario that he suspects will not change anytime soon.
"The same people who are giving large contributions are spending money on lobbyists to make sure the rules don't change," Jillson said. "The average Texan looks at that and says 'what's the point.'"
When asked if Texas' no-limit policy was ethical, Jillson said ethics is not a singular decisive rule, giving the example that a pure capitalist would argue people have the right to spend their money as they see fit.
Ethical or not, TLR thinks Mostyn will continue to take advantage of the lack of contribution limits.
"It is in Mostyn's self-interest to have his good friend Wendy Davis in the governor's office and we expect he will contribute millions more to her campaign," Sylvester said.
"He spent millions of dollars trying to defeat Gov. Rick Perry and is an adamant foe of tort reform."
The Mostyn Law Firm made a name for itself following hurricanes Rita and Ike, filing thousands of lawsuits on behalf of Gulf Coast residents against insurance companies and the Texas Windstorm Association.
In 2010, Mostyn was also instrumental in negotiating a $500 million settlement with TWIA, netting plaintiffs attorneys $44 million in fees.
Sylvester said the exorbitant legal fees he imposed on TWIA contributed mightily to the insolvency of the state's windstorm insurer.
Jillson pointed out that Abbott has also received some hefty donations from individuals, just not quite as large as the $1 million contribution Davis received.
"It is unusual but not completely unprecedented," Jillson said about Mostyn's contribution. "Texas has always allowed wealthy individuals to give as much as they feel moved to give. Both (Davis and Abbott) are playing within the rules of the game."
Mostyn did not return a message seeking comment for an earlier Legal Newsline story about his $1 million contribution.
From Legal Newsline: Reach David Yates at firstname.lastname@example.org.