Lawyer v. Lawyer as Mostyn squares off against Texas Trial Lawyers Association

It would seem it’s Lawyer v. Lawyer as the legal industry squares off in response to former Texas Trial Lawyers Association president and the state’s top Democratic donor, Steve Mostyn’s creation of the new Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers. An urgent meeting called recently by the TTLA was to “address complaints about its spending practices and other criticism leveled by a breakaway faction of attorneys who say they want more for their money,” The Texas Tribune reported.

Mostyn told the Tribune he started the new group because “he felt like the TTLA’s dues were being wasted on lavish salaries and benefits instead of getting allies elected to important state elected offices.”

In an earlier article discussing the organization’s formation, the Tribune described the effort as “a new group of like-minded attorneys who want to shake up politics — and the storied Texas Trial Lawyers Association along with it.”

The group’s chief goal, Mostyn said, was “getting more money into the hands of candidates friendly to their cause, with as little administrative bloat as possible.”

Both raising money to help elect allies to state offices and forming organizations to that end are hardly new ventures for Mostyn. He’s already committed to raising money for Battleground Texas.

A recent article noted Battleground Texas’ purported goals of registering new voters and mobilizing voters already registered but not currently participating in our election process. Previously uninvolved citizens helping to put trial lawyer friendly candidates into office is understandably a win for legal practitioners like Mostyn, as a Democratic mega-donor as well as a personal injury lawyer specializing in hurricane lawsuits. Such a ploy, the article suggested, can appear as political activism perhaps masking for professional opportunism.

As good lawyers comfortably argue any side of a case, the Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers formation appears Mostyn flipping the equation and creatively channeling professional opportunism into political activism.

Many of today’s civil actions – especially the type in which Mostyn seemingly specializes – are about legal gamesmanship strategically launched against targeted business entities or identifiable classes of industrial and/or economic interests. It’s not about a meritorious case, it’s about who has the resources, the cast of court-related personnel and best control of the playing field.

In always working to ensure such means, a lawyer’s association seeking to “shake up politics” by electing “candidates friendly to their cause” would seem a shrewd move.

After donating $3 million to a pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA, in 2012, Mostyn and his wife Amber are also now founding members of Ready for Hillary.

Mostyn’s past activities include joining in the 2010 Texas governor’s race by targeting Gov. Rick Perry in full-page newspaper ads that mocked the governor for refusing to debate his Democratic opponent. The ads pictured Perry and featured the word “coward.”

Though most of Mostyn’s political donations are for Democrats and liberal causes, 2012 brought him into three Republican State Senate contests. Another PAC for which Mostyn is reportedly the largest donor, Texans for Insurance Reform, donated similarly.

As with Texans for Insurance Reform, the House Democratic Campaign Committee is another entity that Mostyn did not create, but has been a primary funder of its activities.

Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials was established by Mostyn to help elect judicial candidates in the Houston area.

In addition to pursuing the election of “friendly” candidates, Mostyn appears comfortable incorporating issue advocacy efforts into his stable of activities.

Mark McCaig, a former State Republican Executive Committee member and an associate in Steve Mostyn’s law firm,  is listed as president and co-founder of  Texans for Individual Rights which despite billing itself as a “conservative, non-partisan organization dedicated to the protection of personal liberty, individuals’ access to the civil justice system, and private property rights” is seen by other conservatives as another front organization supporting Mostyn’s agenda.

In recent years, Mostyn was also instrumental in creating and/or funding other organizations such as the Back to Basics PAC, Texans for Public Education, Texas Forward Committee and the Valley Political Action Committee.

Along with serving as its treasurer, Mostyn has given $1 million to Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun-control super PAC formed by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. The group hopes to rival the National Rifle Association’s influence in upcoming political races.

After a 2011 Tuscon, Ariz., shooting incident in which Giffords was seriously injured and six others were left dead, the former Congresswoman was treated at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Since that time, Giffords and Kelly now live part time in League City.

The couple’s efforts to raise money for supporting congressional and state candidates supportive of stricter gun laws continue as evidenced by a late October fundraiser hosted at the home of Houston billionaire restaurateur Tilman Fertitta and his wife, Paige.

Political activism masking for professional opportunism, professional opportunism masked as political activism or both.

Working both sides. Sounds like a lawyer. Looks to be the case.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

Commentary, Featured