Harris County GOP PAC
funded by plaintiff’s lawyers
Plaintiff’s lawyers, who traditionally align themselves with the Democratic Party, are funding a Republican Harris County PAC.
The political action committee, which endorses candidates in Tuesday’s GOP primary, is not associated with the Republican Party. However, its similar-sounding name—Harris County GOP PAC, has reportedly confused many Republican voters.
The group’s slick, four-color mailer appears to be a Republican Party organ, said Jon Opelt, Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “To the contrary, it is a propaganda tool for the trial lawyers”.
The PACs logo even mimics the official logo of the Harris County Republican Party, which features an elephant inside of a star.
“The trial lawyers have not had much success electing their Democratic candidates. So, apparently, they are now trying their hand in the Republican primary,” said Opelt.
Of the four major contributors to Harris County GOP PAC, two have trial lawyer ties and two are Republican candidates who received the group’s endorsement following their donations, according to Texas Ethics Commission records.
The PAC received $10,000 from Nicholas Kralj, an Austin-based lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and $5,000 from Houston plaintiff’s lawyer John Eddie Williams, one of five lawyers who represented the state in the $17.3 billion tobacco settlement.
“This appears to be a means to both give and receive personal injury trial lawyer contributions under the radar,” said Opelt.
A review of Travis County election records over the past twelve years reveals that trial lawyer-lobbyist Kralj has never voted in a Republican primary. According to news reports, Kralj is the single largest contributor to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez, aside from Sanchez himself.
Williams is one of the nation’s top political givers to the Democratic Party. He is also a past contributor to “stealth” trial lawyer political action committees. In the 2000 election cycle, Williams gave a combined $300,000 to two vaguely named trial lawyer PACs, Texas 2000 and Constitutional Defense Fund.
Together these PACS amassed $1.95 million in soft money contributions during the first six months of 2000—more than double what the Democratic and Republican parties raised during the same period combined, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The Harris County GOP PAC has endorsed Supreme Court candidate Elizabeth Ray, currently a state district judge, and County Attorney candidate John Devine. Both have received substantial donations from trial lawyers.
The two other contributors to the Harris County GOP PAC are Houston businessman Peter Wareing, one of eight candidates for Congressional District 31, and Houston attorney Mark Cole, one of five Republican primary candidates in Texas House District 134. Wareing gave $10,000 and Cole, $5,000. The PAC in a “sample ballot” sent to Harris County Republican voters endorsed both candidates.