Circuit Judge Mike Maggio has reached an agreed settlement with the state Ethics Commission on excessive contributions to his since-abandoned race for state Court of Appeals. He got a letter of caution and paid a $750 fine.
An investigation found that Maggio had received contributions in excess of the $2,000 limits from three PACS — an excess $250 from the Thomas Group PAC, $250 from the Go Good Government PAC and $1,000 from the DBH2 PAC.
Maggio has said these were the results of confusion and math errors and he’s repaid the excess.
The letter said the investigation determined all the PACs were properly registered and had not received excessive contributions themselves. All received funding from Michael Morton, the Fort Smith nursing home owner, close to the time Maggio reduced a verdict against one of Morton’s nursing homes by $4.2 million.
The ethics investigation was limited to the contributions. A judicial panel and federal investigators are looking into how many was raised for Maggio’s campaign, how Morton came to be a contributor and whether his contributions had any relationship to the case Maggio has heard. Morton has disavowed any quid pro quo. The Thomas and Go Good Government PACs were set up by Little Rock lawyer Chris Stewart and wholly funded by Morton. The DBH2 PAC is related to lobbyist Bruce Hawkins of Morrilton. It had revenue from sources other than Morton. Hawkins has told ethics investigators that Morton put money in his PAC at the behest of former Sen. Gilbert Baker, who was a UCA lobbyist and head of a private lobbying company and who organized contributions to a number of legislative and judicial races, particularly in Faulkner County. Morton money turned up everywhere from successful Supreme Court candidate Rhonda Wood to state Sen. Jason Rapert.
Maggio’s campaign fell part after disclosures about his injudicious comments under a pseudonym on an LSU fan website. Reporting here about his heavy nursing home contributions and the Morton case preceded deeper digging by Blue Hog Report into the suspicious timing of creation of PACs and the financing. After investigations begin, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered Maggio to stop hearing cases. He’s being paid but not working. His term ends at the end of this year.
The complaint was brought by family members of the woman who died in a Morton nursing home in Greenbrier after failing to receive hospitalization and treatment ordered by a doctor. It was filed on their behalf by Thomas Buchanan, the lawyer who won the $5.2 million verdict against the Morton nursing home, reduced by Maggio to $1 million. Maggio said the higher verdict shocked his conscience.