Millions of dollars have been pumped into typically low-spending Texas Legislature races in recent weeks by groups hoping to limit the amount of money that can be awarded in lawsuits and attorneys fighting such restrictions.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Houston home builder Bob Perry, a top Republican fundraiser, have together contributed almost $1.7 million to Republican candidates over the last five weeks, The Dallas Morning News reported.
However, the strength of those groups has been offset somewhat by $1 million in contributions to Democrats by plaintiffs’ lawyers and organizations they dominate, the newspaper found.
Much of the money has flowed into a Fort Worth state senate race pitting incumbent Democrat Wendy Davis against GOP challenger Mark Shelton.
In the last month alone, Shelton has received $640,000 from the lawsuit group and Perry while Davis has taken in $510,000 from Houston attorney Steve Mostyn and a few other trial lawyers.
The donations are part of a long fight between Texas business interests and the lawyers who sue them. Although state lawmakers have limited damage awards in medical malpractice cases, new battles are expected over other types of lawsuits.
Democratic consultant Jeff Crosby said the financial support from trial lawyers typically goes to candidates “who side with consumers against insurance companies.”
Sherry Sylvester, a spokeswoman for the anti-lawsuit group, said leaders have picked races that involve “swing” seats and where champions for their cause are needed.
“We’re confident that the people we support will listen to our arguments, but they’re going to make their decisions,” she told the newspaper.
Perry, who isn’t related to Gov. Rick Perry, has been a fixture of GOP fundraising in the state and nationally dating back to former President George W. Bush’s gubernatorial races.
The home builder “wants to ensure anyone who wants to create good schools and streamline government has the resources to compete,” according to a spokesman, Anthony Holm.