The Mike Maggio case ought to kill tort reform this legislative session at least.
Really. Does Republican Sen. Eddie Joe Williams want to push former Republican senator Gilbert Baker’s long and well-paid work to fruition with a constitutional amendment to make it harder to sue nursing homes, such as those owned by Michael Morton, and harder to collect big judgments and punitive damages. After this?
And what about Amendment 94, which outlawed corporate campaign contributions, which Michael Morton abused by giving tens of thousands in contributions in the name of various corporate shells, thus making a mockery of $2,000 individual campaign limits.
A constitutional amendment isn’t going to happen, for sure. But what if somebody files a lawsuit claiming that Michael Morton’s multiple corporations are people and can’t be prohibited from making campaign contributions under the federal Citizens United ruling. The greedy corporate lobby will probably still file this suit.
Then that case goes to the Arkansas Supreme Court where Justices Courtney Goodson, Karen Baker, Robin Wynne and Rhonda Wood all boast campaign contribution reports stuffed with nursing home cash. Particularly conspicuous in their reports is money from Michael Morton, whose money persuaded Mike Maggio to throw a nursing home case. Might circumstances make it harder for them to hear such a case or at least harder to rule in a way that favors their nursing home industry benefactors? Shame would dictate that it should.
And what about all the legislators who received Michael Morton money? Will the nursing homes really pressure legislative committees now for delivery of their wants and needs?
Will anybody refund this dirty money? Might Stacy Hurst refund her Morton contributions for a second time to clean up her record for her desired appointment to the Airport Commission, on top of her $109,000 state job consolation prize for losing a House race? She got smelly PAC money from Morton early in the campaign and returned it after bad publicity, only to quietly take $8,000 from Morton again in the waning days of her campaign.
This is a black eye, too, for the Republican Party, robustly in control of all government now. Most of the judges Baker favored for circuit and appellate judgeships with bundled contributions from nursing homes — judicial control was high on his priority list as his text messages show — followed a familiar pattern. They campaigned, sometimes together as Rhonda Wood and Maggio, old Conway pals, once did, at Republican committee meetings. They were self-described conservatives with family values, familiar GOP dog whistles. They said, as Rhonda Wood did at her investiture, that they’d be reluctant to make law or overturn the will of the legislature or voters. More GOP dog whistles, at least until somebody manages to pass a law they don’t like and then a little judicial activism is OK.
Noted: Michael Morton contributed handsomely to at least one Democrat, Mike Ross. At least he has nothing for FBI agents to ask him about. Nothing he can deliver on at this point.