Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Records: Oklahoma Trial Attorneys Ties to PACs Supporting Tea Party Candidates

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Records: Oklahoma Trial Attorneys Ties to PACs Supporting Tea Party Candidates

Article excerpt

Oklahoma trial lawyers have found the tea party.

Once considered stalwart fundraisers for Democratic candidates, Oklahoma trial lawyers formed at least three new political action committees this summer and embraced tea party candidates in an effort to fight changes in torts and workers' compensation law.

Records from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission show that trial attorneys have funded at least three PACs, contributing to challengers to Republican Senate and House incumbents during the June primary election.

Statewide lawyers and lobbyists contributed more than $540,000 to political candidates for the 2012 election cycle.

Some political experts call it embracing the inevitable; others see it as a last-ditch effort to roll back restrictions of workers' compensation and jury awards.

"I think the trial lawyers have recognized they don't have control of the power structure in this state anymore," said Pat McFerron, a Republican pollster and campaign adviser. "I think they've also recognized that Republicans are going to control the Legislature for the foreseeable future and they want to have the ability to communicate with that caucus."

Records show that three PACs - the James Madison PAC, the Defenders of the Constitution PAC and the 7th Amendment Christian Coalition - all have a majority of donors who are trial lawyers.

At the same time, those three groups have contributed more than $40,000 to tea party candidates - an idea that McFerron said demonstrates an ongoing shift in the state's political winds.

"We're becoming a one-party state again," he said. "Previously we were a one-party state, then briefly we were a two-party state. Now we're going back to being a one-party state again."

State records show that the James Madison PAC, which includes donors such as noted defense attorneys Jack Stipe and Clark Brewster, made large contributions to tea party candidates Bob Dani, Bobby Cleveland, Kevin McDugle and Paul Blair. …

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