3/7/2014 update: A year after the initially undisclosed lobbying efforts of HLGR’s Dave Frohnmayer and Bill Gary helped defeat the first attempt:
March 4, 2015
Governor Kate Brown Signs Legal Aid Bill
(Salem, OR) — Today, Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2700, sending unclaimed damage awards to legal aid, instead of going back to the company that was sued.
“This law makes Oregon’s class action laws fair for all Oregonians and ensures that corporations who are responsible compensate for the harm they have caused, and helps support our critically underfunded legal services,” said Governor Kate Brown. link to photos
3/6/2014: Buying Dave Frohnmayer pays off big for Philip Morris and BP Legal aid bill defeated in Senate, 15-15:
The concern, expressed openly by several Republican senators, is that they will now be painted as wanting to help Big Oil and Big Tobacco – both targets of class action suits in Oregon — instead of the average or low-income voter.
Dave is obviously a talented lobbyist. I wonder why he couldn’t get the legislature to give deals like this to UO, back when he was president? We didn’t properly incentivize him?
2/23/2014 update: RG Editors dismiss Frohnmayer and Gary arguments, note 48 other states now do this, and support HB 4143.
2/22/2014 update: Steve Duin has an excellent review of the conflict of interest issues swirling around Frohnmayer’s opposition to HB 4143, which would take unclaimed damages from class action settlements against his clients like Philip Morris, and use it to fund legal aid for the poor. Currently Oregon lets the corporations have it back, if they can’t find the people it’s owed to. In the Oregonian, here:
… LaMar said she was especially disappointed because Frohnmayer, as Oregon’s attorney general from 1981-1991, “was charged with prosecuting many of the violations of law that class-action plaintiff attorneys pursue. Many of these class-action lawsuits develop because attorneys general can’t take on that kind of case-load.
“I respect Dave Frohnmayer,” LaMar said, then added, “Why has Dave changed so much? That’s kind of painful.”
“The act of advocacy alters one’s opinions,” Portland attorney Greg Kafoury observes. “When you have spent your career defending what large corporations do, much of it marginally criminal or against the public interest, you develop a point of view, and one diametrically opposed to the view that sent you to law school.”
Stoll is even more blunt: “I think Frohnmayer is making a bogus argument. He sold out to Big Tobacco, and now to Big Oil.” Referring to three prominent supporters of the bill, AGs past and present, Stoll added, “You can hardly say that Hardy Myers, Ted Kulongoski and Ellen Rosenblum are radical legal scholars. They are very balanced in their approach.” …
To add to the stink, after retiring as UO President, Frohnmayer used his UO paid “research” sabbatical to restart his legal career at Harrang, Long, Gary and Rudnick PC. HLGR then successfully bragged about his UO connections when applying for (and getting) the contract to take over UO’s legal work, for which they are billing around $750K a year.
Why did UO start contracting out its legal work? Because SB 242, which Frohnmayer helped draft and worked on while he was on his UO and OUS paid sabbatical and leave, took that job away from the Oregon DOJ. More here.
OUS GC Ryan Hagemann was supposed to do a review of the contract for HLGR, but never did. I wonder where he’ll land after OUS closes up shop?
2/21/2014: The Oregonian has another piece on this today, as does WWeek. Still no news on whether Frohnmayer broke Oregon’s lobbying law, but HLGR was apparently able to stop the bill’s sponsor’s from speaking at a Legal Aid event, and more questions are being raised about the accuracy of Frohnmayer and Gary’s letter to the legislature:
At Thursday’s hearing, Read likened Oregon’s current arrangement to the police apprehending a burglar with 50 stolen televisions. Under current class-action rules, if the police couldn’t find the owners of 20 of the televisions, they would give the TVs back to the burglar.
BP is mounting a vigorous offensive. Besides trotting out Frohnmayer and others to testify the bill, the company was offering $5,000 to lobbyists in Salem earlier this week willing to work against it, according to multiple sources in the Capitol.
Bill Gary and Frohnmayer’s former aide Marla Rae are registered as lobbyists with the state for HLGR, but Frohnmayer is not – a potential legal problem for our ex-president.
2/20/2014: I’ve got no idea if it’s legal for a state employee like Dave Frohnmayer to engage in this sort of lobbying effort for his tobacco company clients, without disclosure. But if he’s going to do it, he should at least stop embarrassing UO’s Knight Law School with these exclamation points, bold fonts, ALL CAPS!, and utter lack of citations:
From the Jeff Manning story in the Oregonian, on former UO President Dave Frohnmayer’s efforts to protect his big tobacco clients from having to pay money for legal aid for indigent Oregonians. Compare with the sober response from Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Dexter Jordan, here. Or the letter from Frohnmayer’s former mentee and current Oregon AG, Ellen Rosenblum, here.
Nigel Jaquiss has more, including a letter from Hardy Myers, another former Oregon AG
and Frohnmayer mentee, [thanks to commenter for correction] and an apology from Frohnmayer’s co-author Bill Gary admitting that they should have disclosed that Philip Morris and BP were their clients. Which is nice, though I’m guessing not many legislators were fooled into thinking they’d written this out of concern for the state and people of Oregon!