McMaster says law barring contributions doesn't apply to him

John O'Brien Sep. 25, 2009, 3:20pm


COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has no plans to return campaign money given by private attorneys he hired to represent the State in litigation.

A Thursday report by The Associated Press noted that two attorneys working on McMaster's case against Eli Lilly & Co. have contributed to his campaign fund. Friday, McMaster, a Republican who is running for governor in 2010, said he won't give up the money because a state law does not apply to him, the AP reported.

Those contracted by a state official may not contribute to that official. McMaster said his situation is not covered by the law.

"I don't know who else it could possibly apply to," Cathy Hazelwood, deputy director and general counsel for the state Ethics Commission, said in the report. "If it doesn't apply to Henry McMaster in this situation, then who does it apply to in government?"

McMaster's office has not returned a Thursday message seeking comment.

John White of Harrison White gave $2,000 to McMaster in 2008, and John Simmons of Simmons Law Firm in Columbia, S.C., gave McMaster $7,000 ($3,500 in 2006 and 2008). The two, along with Houston-based firm Bailey Perrin Bailey, are representing the State in the Lilly litigation.

Other members of Harrison White who gave to McMaster include: Danny Smith ($2,000 in 2007 and $2,000 in 2008); Ben Harrison ($2,000 in 2007); and Donald Coggins ($3,500 in 2006).

The firm itself gave McMaster $3,500 in both 2006 and 2008.

In Aug. 2006, McMaster announced the State was filing suit against several pharmaceutical companies and seeking more than $40 million. Each in-state attorney has contributed to his campaign fund.

The companies sued were Abbott Laboratories, Baxter International, Dey, Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane and Schering-Plough.

Two out-of-state firms were contracted -- Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles of Montgomery, Ala., and President Barack Obama's former employer Miner, Barnhill & Galland of Chicago.

Of the in-state counsel, Stephen Schmutz of Schmutz & Schmutz in Charleston donated $3,500 to McMaster in 2008, as did Kate Schmutz. The firm also gave McMaster $3,500. Pete Strom of Columbia gave $3,500 in 2008, while T. English McCutchen of Columbia gave $3,500 in 2006 and Mike Kelly of Columbia gave $1,000 the same year.

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