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WV CALA: “West Virginia Is Not For Sale”
Charleston, W.Va. - The personal injury lawsuit industry has rapidly increased its effort to buy influence with lawsuit-friendly legislative candidates across West Virginia, according to analysis of recent campaign finance reports by West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
The watchdog group released its update “Dirty Dozen” list, which ranks 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. 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,” said Greg Thomas, Executive Director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
State Senator Rocky Fitzsimmons (Senate District 1), a millionaire personal injury lawyer in Wheeling, continues to rank number one on the “Dirty Dozen” list. Fitzsimmons has accepted over $100,000 in contributions from fellow personal injury lawyers, which is over half of all his campaign contributions this election cycle.
Mike Romano (Senate District 12), another personal injury lawyer and former president of the trial lawyers’ organization, continues to rank second on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, accepting over $44,000 in personal injury lawyer contributions. Additionally, he loaned his campaign over $100,000. Former circuit judge and incumbent State Senator Donald Cookman (Senate District 15) accepted more than $40,000 from the personal injury lawsuit industry.
State Senator Donald Cookman, a former circuit judge, has accepted over $40,000 in personal injury lawyer contributions. Senator Cookman continues to be one of the top five recipients of personal injury lawsuit industry cash.
Andrew Byrd, a personal injury attorney from Charleston and candidate for the House of Delegates in District 35, made the largest move up the “Dirty Dozen” list by collecting over $12,000 in contributions during the recently concluded First General campaign finance period. Byrd’s campaign has raised more than $20,000 from the personal injury lawsuit industry this election cycle.
A majority of the list is made up of incumbents, including personal injury lawyer House Speaker Tim Miley (House District 48, $13,000), State Senator Greg Tucker (Senate District 11, $11,000), State Senator Larry Edgell (Senate District 2, $10,000), House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin (House District 50, $9,000), and State Senator Ron Miller (Senate District 10, $8,000).
PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS’ CONTRIBUTIONS APPROACH $600,000, MOST GOES TO “DIRTY DOZEN” CANDIDATES
Several non-incumbent personal injury lawyer candidates made the list, including Michael Woelfel (Senate District 5, $18,750), Holli Smith (House District 3, $19,450), and former delegate and staunch opponent of legal reform, Bobbie Hatfield (House District 35, $14,218).
LAWPAC, the trial lawyers’ political action committee, has made over $160,000 in contributions to legislative candidates across West Virginia. Political contributions from LAWPAC and those on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ from the personal injury industry are approaching the $600,000 mark.
“Millionaire personal injury lawyers are again hoping to buy our West Virginia Legislature so they can maintain their lifestyles filled with out-of-state mansions, private airplanes, and expensive sports cars. Meanwhile the average West Virginian is struggling to put food on the table and provide healthcare for their family. West Virginia is not for sale and we will let West Virginians know the top recipients of personal injury lawyer money. We recently started a statewide radio campaign to inform the public about their massive wave of political spending,” concluded Thomas.
The list was compiled based on a review of state campaign finance records, including those for the 2014 First General Reporting Period, which became available on September 26, 2014.