Little Rock lawyer Tom Thrash reports progress in his 18-year effort to win damages for State Farm insurance policyholders who didn’t get top quality replacement parts when they made claims for vehicle damage.

The latest is a federal judge’s decision to open evidence gathered for a trial of a RICO suit by plaintiffs represented by Thrash and others saying State Farm engaged in corrupt practices by funneling money to elect  Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier. He voted in 2005 against Thrash’s plaintiffs in overturning a $1 billion judgment in a 2000 suit against State Farm. Karmeier won the seat on the court by defeating a lower court judge who had voted for the verdict against State Farm.

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After seeing the class action judgment overturned in 2005, attorneys made several attempts to reinstate it, but failed. In 2012, the racketeering suit was filed. It alleges State Farm found a way to secretly support Karmeier’s election and thus defeat their lawsuit. That suit goes to trial in September. Until the recent federal court ruling, all the discovery information had been protected. State Farm said it would taint the jury pool. The plaintiffs want the information out.

Thrash filed the original suit in Little Rock, but the case moved to Illinois.

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The new case, Hale v. State Farm, is seen by Thrash as a prime example of dark money influencing judicial races. He believes organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce serve as conduits for corporate money to influence court races, such as the heavy corporate money spent two years ago and again this year to defeat Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.

You can read Thrash’s summary of the case here in a successful motion opposing dismissal of the suit. It says State Farm financed the Illinois judge’s run for the court and then misrepresented its role in fighting to keep him on the case for his critical vote to overturn the billion-dollar award. He details almost $3 million in State Farm money allegedly routed through various business organizations to benefit Karmeier’s election.

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Could it happen here? It has. And likely will again given the insufficiency of judicial election campaign finance disclosure law.

Also: More here from a Thrash expert witness on the money trail.

UPDATE: On July 3, a judge denied State Farm’s motion to dismiss the suit.