- State attorneys general rake in trial lawyer cash, dole out contracts

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By Bill McMorris 

ALEXANDRIA — Trial lawyers have turned campaign contributions to attorneys general into lucrative contracts through class action lawsuits and no-bid contracts, according to a new report.

For more than 10 years, attorneys general in all 50 states have raked in millions in campaign donations from plaintiff lawyers. Some of those officials have awarded contracts to donors to represent government entities in multibillion dollar lawsuits, according to a new report from the Manhattan Institute, a conservative advocacy group based in New York.

States have turned to civil courts to punish polluters, investment firms and pharmaceutical companies to recover taxpayer money. The most notable class action involving state governments came in 1998 when cigarette manufacturers agreed to send more than $200 billion to states during a 25-year period to compensate for medical costs associated with smoking. Plaintiff attorneys took home more than $30 billion in that case.

In many cases, attorneys general contract out similar class action lawsuits to private trial lawyers, who earn a percentage of money won in civil trial or settlement. The legal community has opened up its wallets for the attorneys general, who control the purse strings on contracts.

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