BISMARCK, N.D. (Legal Newsline) - A group being funded by trial lawyer heavyweights is working with Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general, on her U.S. Senate campaign.
Writing on SayAnythingBlog.com, Rob Port found that a group called Justice 2012 is raising funds for and spending money on behalf of Heitkamp's campaign. She was attorney general from 1993-2000, when many state attorneys general forged relationships with private attorneys for the purpose of suing the tobacco industry.
She is seeking a Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Kent Conrad.
"Who is Justice 2012?" Port wrote. "The s(h)ort answer is that it appears to be a front group, chaired by a liberal activist named Judith Zamore who is linked to Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown, existing to funnerl trial lawyer money into four Democrat campaigns including Heitkamp's."
According to the group's statement of organization, it has four committees participating in joint fundraising. In addition to Heidi for Senate, Justice 2012 will be aiding the U.S. Senate campaigns for Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.
All three are members of the U.S. House of Representatives looking to fill open Senate seats. Port wrote that Justice 2012 has raised $729,535, almost exclusively from trial lawyers.
Among the lawyers making donations are:
-Greg Allen and Jere Beasley, of Alabama's Beasley Allen Law Firm;
-Timothy Bailey, of West Virginia's Bucci, Bailey & Javins;
-Steven Baron and Russell Budd, of Texas' Baron & Budd;
-Roger Greenberg, of Greenberg & Bederman;
-Russ and Stephen Herman, of Louisiana's Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar;
-Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America;
-Walter Umphrey, of Texas' Provost Umphrey Law Firm; and
-Lawrence Cohan, of Pennsylvania's Anapol Schwartz.
Also of note are donations by Ron Motley and Fred Thompson, of South Carolina's Motley Rice. Former Motley Rice attorney Jack McConnell represented North Dakota during the tobacco litigation.
The 46-state settlement reached in 1998 has an estimated worth of $246 billion over its first 25 years and also provided $14 billion of dollars in attorneys fees (as estimated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute) to private attorneys hired by the states. McConnell is still collecting checks from the settlement as he sits on the federal bench in Rhode Island.
After years of heavy contributing to Democratic groups and candidates, McConnell was nominated to a federal judgeship by President Barack Obama. The Democrat-controlled Senate approved the nomination over the summer.
McConnell gave Heitkamp $25,000 for her unsuccessful 2000 run for governor and another $40,000 to the state's Democratic Party that year.
Port criticized comments Heitkamp made last year. She told Roll Call, "I think that our Congress has lost touch with the people of this country, and that we need reasonable voices who will represent constituents and not special interests. That's a hard pitch to make when you have a special campaign fund set up expressly for a special interest."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.