W.Va. trial lawyers’ donations to candidates for legislature near $600K

By David Yates | Oct 5, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) – With Election Day just around the corner, West Virginia trial lawyers' spending on candidates running for or seeking re-election to the state legislature has neared $600,000.

On Thursday, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse announced an update to its “Dirty Dozen” list – a list of candidates who have accepted the most “lawsuit industry money.”

“Millionaire personal injury lawyers have spent nearly $600,000 on their attempt to maintain control of the lawsuits-not-jobs Legislature,” said Greg Thomas, WV CALA executive director. “West Virginia is not for sale, and we will continue to let hardworking West Virginians know which candidate’s are being bankrolled by personal injury lawyer millionaires.”

In a past statement concerning the "Dirty Dozen," Anthony Majestro, president of West Virginia Association for Justice, said CALA’s lists takes a few facts and twists them in attempt to scare voters into giving up their rights.

As far as the list goes, state Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons (Senate District 1), a millionaire personal injury lawyer in Wheeling, continues to rank No. 1 on the “Dirty Dozen” list, with more than $100,000 in contributions from fellow personal injury lawyers.

Staying in second place is state Sen. Mike Romano (S.D. 12). The former president of the state trial lawyers’ organization has accepted more than $44,000 from his fellow personal injury lawyers. Additionally, he loaned his campaign nearly $100,000.

Moving up on the list is Andrew Byrd, a personal injury attorney from Charleston and candidate for the House of Delegates in District 35, collecting more than $12,000 in contributions from attorneys during the recently concluded first general campaign finance period for a total of $20,000.

The majority of the list is made up of incumbents, including personal injury lawyer House Speaker Tim Miley (H.D. 48, $13,000), state Sen. Greg Tucker (S.D. 11, $11,000), state Sen. Larry Edgell (S.D. 2, $10,000), House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin (H.D. 50, $9,000) and state Sen. Ron Miller (S.D. 10, $8,000).

Several non-incumbent personal injury lawyer candidates made the list, including Michael Woelfel (S.D. 5, $18,750), Holli Smith (H.D. 3, $19,450), and former delegate and staunch opponent of legal reform, Bobbie Hatfield (H.D. 35, $14,218).

Every candidate that made the list is a Democrat.

LAWPAC, the trial lawyers’ political action committee, has donated more than $160,000 in contributions to legislative candidates across West Virginia.

The list was compiled based on CALA’s review of state campaign finance records, which became available on Sept. 26.

Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com

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