LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has launched a consumer protection website, sparking the latest round of criticism over his handling of funds from a settlement with a pharmaceutical company.
Monday, McDaniel announced the website GotYourBackArkansas.org, which he says has tips, tools and resources for consumers navigating the marketplace. The site is part of a consumer protection initiative that will also include radio, television and print advertisements.
According to a report by The Associated Press, the campaign is funded by a 2010 settlement with Eli Lilly & Co.
"I wish my office had millions at its disposal to run my campaign ads," Lt. Gov. Mark Darr wrote on Twitter, the report adds.
Darr also called it "a little self-serving," the report says.
McDaniel settled with Eli Lilly for $18.5 million over allegations that the company marketed the prescription antipsychotic Zyprexa for off-label uses.
About $1.4 million of Arkansas' settlement was allocated to the Arkansas Medicaid Program as reimbursement for improper payments due to the off-label marketing of Zyprexa.
The Attorney General's Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund also received $2 million to support future consumer investigations and prosecutions. About $15 million was placed in the Medicaid Program Trust Fund.
McDaniel hired Houston firm Bailey Perrin Bailey to bring the lawsuit, as did several other states. The firm donated $70,000 to the Arkansas Democratic Party in 2006.
In July, John Brummett, a columnist for the Arkansas News, slammed McDaniel's distribution of the settlement funds.
Brummett said McDaniel took some of that settlement money to make his office "a special investigator and locally deputized prosecutor of sex predators of children on the Internet."
"He also made his office the place for a new cyberspace forensics unit to track these Internet child-porn creeps," the columnist wrote.
Brummett argues that McDaniel did so "for noble purposes that, coincidentally, serve to enhance his political standing."
He also argues that, in doing so, McDaniel benefits his "inevitable" race for governor -- "an office that soon will amount to a demotion considering the way the attorney general keeps getting more presumptuously powerful," Brummett wrote.
In the AP report, McDaniel's chief of staff responded to Barr's criticism.
"The only thing political here is that kind of uniformed criticism," Blake Rutherford said. "The role of AGs all across the nation is to advocate for consumers."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.