Gov. John Bel Edwards Wikimedia Commons.
NEW ORLEANS – Amid all the controversy surrounding Gov. John Bel Edwards' picks for his legal team to represent the state in coastal lawsuits against the oil and gas industry in Louisiana, two lobbyists for trial attorneys on his new team held a fundraiser for the governor this week.
Trial lawyer lobbyists Dan Robin and Ted Jones held the fundraiser on Thursday at Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans to raise money for Edwards' campaign. The cost to attend the event was $5,000 a person, making it likely that some heavy legal hitters were in attendance.
“They’re going to have fundraisers for the governor,” Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) told the Louisiana Record. “What are you going to do? We know that a large portion of the campaign money that he receives came from these lawyers (who) are also his friends and people that he has done business with and knows. How do you get around that?”
Robin represents Sher Garner, one of the firms picked by Edwards and, until recently, the only law firm in the mix that hasn’t contributed heavily to the governor’s campaign. Of the 12 firms representing the state and local entities in coastal litigation, 11 have spent more than $2.6 million in support of Edwards. This accounts for 20 percent of all the contributions he received since 2014.
Additionally, several of the attorneys picked by Edwards for the coastal litigation team have worked on previous cases against the oil and gas industry including global corporations such as Exxon.
“The governor is doing business with his friends, and the people that he knows and is comfortable with,” Briggs said. “What concerns me is that we are being sued by a group of trial lawyers that have been in many other litigation cases like this against the industry.”
Edwards is assembling a team of attorneys to represent the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in lawsuits over alleged permit violations by the oil and gas industry as part of the Coastal Zone Management Program. Four parishes have filed suit – Jefferson, Plaquemines, Cameron and Vermilion with Jefferson's brief recently being dismissed until all administrative procedures are exhausted. They have filed 40 lawsuits against the oil and gas industry.
“The industry has not been told or shown that we have violated any of these permits,” Briggs said. “We believe that there is a process in place to the Coastal Zone Management Program to address any violations with those permits.”
Furthering the controversy over Edwards' picks for his legal team is that Attorney General Jeff Landry has not signed off on the contracts and has rejected them multiple times.
“The attorney general has to do what he has to do by law and determine whether the contracts are a conflict or legal,” Briggs said. “I trust that the attorney general will do just that.”