Hood Rakes in $70K from Lawyers with No-Bid Contracts with his Office

Now that the field is set for the 2011 campaign for Attorney General, it is interesting to review Jim Hood’s latest campaign finance report covering 2010.  The anticipation was like a new season of Law & Order.  Several of the actors from previous seasons left the show, so we were wondering who will be playing their characters this year?  Or will the franchise even continue?

Last season Dickie Scruggs and Joey Langston left the Jim Hood show.  You’ll remember how WLBT reported Scruggs and Langston sent $400,000 to DAGA which wound up in Hood’s campaign coffers. That doesn’t include the $33,000 in contributions directly from Scruggs to Hood.

This season so far, Hood raised $415,969.53, spent $111,009.93 and has $402,378.73 on hand.  Lawyers and law firms made up 60.4% of the contributions which is to be expected.

The Mississippi legal community made up less than a third of Hood’s contributions: $113,040.55 (27.2%), a telling sign that the old actors are gone.  But the largest sector of contributions came from out-of-state lawyers and firms with $137,949 (33.2%).

 But some of the actors have returned this season.  More than $70,000 in contributions came from law firms with no-bid contracts awarded by Hood.  Some call it “pay to play” other “pay to sue” but they criticize the practice as Hood Fundraising 101.

Looking at the no-bid contracts on the AG’s website we found several contractors now contributors.

Mississippi Lawyers/Law Firms with Contracts – $23,500

 Brent Hazzard (2contracts) – $5,000

John T. Kitchens – Kitchens Hardwick & Ray (1 contract) – $1,000

McCraney Montagnet & Quin, PLLC (2 contracts) – $1,000

Steve Montagnet – $2,500

Tad McCraney – $2,500

William M. Quin, II – $2,500

Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush (2 contracts)

C. Dale Shearer- Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

Thomas  A. Cook – Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

Thomas L. Kirkland, Jr. – Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

William H. Leech, Sr. – Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

C. Ted Sanderson – Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

Glenn Gates Taylor – Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $1,000

Charles G. Copeland- Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush – $3,000

Out-of- State Lawyers/Law Firms with Contracts – $48,649

Robert N. Kaplan of Kaplan, Fox & Kilsheimer (1 contract) – $500

Chitwood Harley Harnes, LLP (1 contract) – $5,000

Wolf Popper, LLP (1 contract) – $16,000

Grant & Eisenhofer, PA (1 contract) – $1,000

Jay W. Eisenhofer – $4,000

Zimmerman & Reed (1 contract)

J. Gordon Rudd, Jr. – Zimmerman &  – $1,000

Carolyn Anderson – Zimmerman & Reed – $1,000

Timothy Becker – Zimmerman & Reed – $1,000

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann (5 Contracts Total of $19,149)

Chad Johnson – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $250 

John C. Browne – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $1,000

Mark Lebovitch of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $1,000

William C. Fredricks – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $1,000

Hannah G. Ross  – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $1,000

David Stickney – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $2,000

Steven B. Singer- Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $2,000

Blair Nicholas – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $2,000

Salvatore J. Graziano of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $2,000

Gerald H. Silk of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $3,000

Max W. Berger of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann – $3,000

Tony Gerlderman – Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman – $899 (In Kind)

It’s good to see Wolf Popper and Bernstein Litowitz back after such critical reviews last season. They both had cameos in this Wall Street Journal piece from February 2008:

Should state Attorneys General be able to outsource their legal work to for-profit tort lawyers, who then funnel a share of their winnings back to the AGs? That’s become a sleazy practice in many states, and it is finally coming under scrutiny — notably in Mississippi, home of Dickie Scruggs, Attorney General Jim Hood, and other legal pillars.

We’ve recently examined documents from the AG’s office detailing which law firms he has retained. We then cross-referenced those names with campaign finance records. The results show that some of Mr. Hood’s largest campaign donors are the very firms to which he’s awarded the most lucrative state contracts.

 The vast majority of the legal contracts were awarded on a contingency fee basis, meaning the law firm is entitled to a big percentage of any money that it can wring from defendants. The amounts can be rich, such as the $14 million payout that lawyer Joey Langston shared with the Lundy, Davis firm in an MCI/WorldCom settlement.

These firms are only too happy to return the favor to Mr. Hood via campaign contributions. Campaign finance records show that these 27 law firms — or partners in those firms — made $543,000 in itemized campaign contributions to Mr. Hood over the past two election cycles.

Partners in the Langston Law Firm gave more than $130,000 to elect Mr. Hood, having been retained to sue Eli Lilly. Lead partner Joey Langston has separately pleaded guilty to conspiracy to corruptly influence a judge.

Among others: The Wolf Popper firm from New York was retained to pursue Sonus Networks, a telecommunications firm; Wolf Popper and its partners gave $27,500 to Mr. Hood’s campaign. Bernstein, Litowitz sued at least four different companies for the AG, and the firm and its partners chipped in $41,500.

In 2007, law firms that have benefited from Mr. Hood gave the organization $572,000, and in turn the group wrote campaign checks in 2007 to Mr. Hood for $550,000. Guess who supplied no less than $400,000 to the group? Messrs. Scruggs and Langston.

Add all of this up, and in 2007 alone Mr. Hood received some $790,000 from partners and law firms that have benefited financially from his office. That is more than half of all of Mr. Hood’s itemized contributions for 2007.

These criticisms of Hood have me torn between being appalled by the practice and disappointed that Hood thinks so little of his worth.  It reminds me of the joke….maybe by W.C. Fields …. of the man who asked a woman if she will sleep with him for a million dollars.  She smiles and says yes.  He then offers $100.  She is indignant.  “No!” she replies. “What kind of woman do you think I am?”   The man calmly replies, “We have established what kind of woman you are.  We are now haggling over the price.”

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