NEW ORLEANS — An investigation released by a legal watchdog organization has found Louisiana’s trial lawyers are pushing hard to influence the outcome of political races at all levels of state government.
The study, released on Tuesday by Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), revealed findings that trial lawyer campaign contributions have accounted for $8.5 million in state political races between 2008 and 2014.
According to the report, many of the trial bar's biggest contributors are also the biggest individual political donors in the state.
“If campaign cash is the measure of political clout, it is not ‘Big Oil’ or ‘Big Business’ that calls the shots in Baton Rouge,” said Melissa Landry, executive director of LLAW. “That distinction goes to a small group of trial lawyers who have used their winnings from massive court settlements to unleash a coordinated flood of campaign contributions in an apparent attempt to stymie meaningful lawsuit reform.”
LLAW’s report, which the group said involved poring over thousands of campaign finance reports, found that trial lawyers have directed a large portion of their giving to the Louisiana Legislature in particular. The study further found that 82 percent of all sitting state senators and 50 percent of all House members have received $5,000 or more from the trial bar. This campaign finance activity also appears set to grow. According to LLAW, trial bar donations to Louisiana lawmakers have quadrupled since 2008.
Ed Chervenak, a political analyst and political scientist professor at the University of New Orleans, said the findings are troubling.
“It is a system of legalized bribery,” Chervenak said. “At minimum you want access, at maximum you want is influence.”