Group seeks help getting records from McConnell settlement

John O'Brien Jun. 29, 2010, 4:00pm


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - A Rhode Island group wants the details of the state's lead paint settlement with DuPont that was negotiated by attorney Jack McConnell, currently being considered for a federal judgeship by the U.S. Senate.

The Ocean State Policy Research Institute on Tuesday issued an appeal to state Attorney General Patrick Lynch asking for intervention in the open records request sent to McConnell and his firm Motley Rice on May 25. The request seeks records relating to the negotiating of DuPont's settlement.

DuPont opted to settle instead of fighting the state's lawsuit, which other paint companies did successfully. In court papers, Sherwin-Williams criticized what the funds from the settlement were used for.

"While OSPRI is concerned that the facts about the 'Dupont Deal' be made public, we are equally concerned that government transparency not be frustrated by private firms representing the people who fail to make the records of the case available to their client, we the people" said Brian Bishop, director of OSPRI's legal research and education arm, Founders Project.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, submitted the letter to the record of McConnell's confirmation proceedings.

Attorneys for Sherwin-Williams took issue with two parts of DuPont's settlement.

One provision of the agreement had $2.5 million earmarked to pay Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Sherwin-Williams says the money is used to satisfy a pledge made previously by Motley Rice.

"This contribution has no connection whatsoever to Rhode Island lead paint issues, and the Attorney General had admitted that he knew of no benefit that Rhode Island citizens will receive from this out-of-state contribution," a motion to value the settlement says.

The second was an allotment of $1 million to Brown University, Lynch's alma mater.

McConnell told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he waived "fees that would be due from the state's settlement with DuPont, on the condition that those fees be directed to a charitable cause."

The committee recommended McConnell's approval 13-6 earlier this month.

McConnell was recommended by two Rhode Island senators to whom he gave more than $25,000. President Barack Obama went through with the nomination.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed recommended McConnell to fill a vacancy in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island last year.

"Jack McConnell is a brilliant legal mind and an outstanding community leader. We believe he possesses the experience, intellect, and temperament to be a great judge on the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island," a statement released by the senators said.

Whitehouse, then the attorney general, hired Motley Rice 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. He will make millions of dollars in fees every year until 2024.

After Whitehouse left the Attorney General's Office, McConnell and his wife 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.

Sarah 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.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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