Possible federal judge opened checkbook for 13 senators

John O'Brien Oct. 26, 2009, 3:58pm


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Since 2000, trial lawyer Jack McConnell has contributed to the campaigns of 13 current U.S. senators who may eventually help make him a federal judge.

All totaled, McConnell and his wife Sarah have given $46,500 to Democratic senators this century, not counting donations to national party organizations that helped Democrats get elected to federal positions.

Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, the biggest beneficiaries of McConnell's generosity, have recommended to President Barack Obama that McDonnell, who works at Motley Rice's Providence office, be nominated a federal judge. They also recommended Superior Court Justice Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson.

"We believe that Justice Thompson and Mr. McConnell are highly qualified and will make Rhode Island proud. They both possess strong legal backgrounds, a commitment to justice, and the intellect, temperament, and integrity to serve as federal judges," the senators said in April.

"They both come from working, middle-class families and share a profound respect for the rule of law.

"We look forward to working with the President and our colleagues in the Senate to see these nominations through the confirmation process."

If Obama chooses to nominate McConnell, he must be confirmed by the Senate.

McConnell represented the State of Rhode Island in unsuccessful litigation against the former manufacturers of lead paint. Whitehouse, then the attorney general, hired the firm to file suit in 1999.

McConnell was also a member of the litigation team that brought suit against tobacco companies on behalf of states, resulting in the $246-billion, 46-state Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998.

After Whitehouse left the Attorney General's Office, the McConnells pumped $12,600 into his campaign fund. Whitehouse took office in 2007.

Since 2001, the McConnels have given Reed $13,200, including $8,800 for his 2008 re-election campaign.

Outside of Rhode Island, the McConnells have supported 11 other senators since 2000. They are:

-Minnesota's Al Franken, who received $1,000 for the Franken Recount Fund in 2008;

-New Mexico's Tom Udall, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000;

-Washington's Maria Cantwell, to whom the McConnells gave $4,200;

-Connecticut's Chris Dodd, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, to whom the McConnells gave $500;

-Florida's Bill Nelson, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000;

-Washington's Patty Murray, to whom the McConnells gave $2,000;

-Nevada's Harry Reid, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-Indiana's Evan Bayh, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000;

-New York's Chuck Schumer, to whom the McConnells gave $1,000; and

-Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, to whom the McConnells gave $3,000.

Sara McConnell also gave $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2008.

Among members of the Obama administration, the McConnells gave $12,000 to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in 2004 for his Senate campaign, as well as $8,000 to Chief of Staff and former Congressman Rahm Emanuel in 2003.

The McConnells gave Obama more than $4,000 last year. They have given more than $650,000 for federal races.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com. Campaign contribution figures from the Center for Responsive Politics.

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