Pennsylvania’s Lawsuit Racket

The Wall Street Journal has a scathing piece on pay-to-play politics in Harrisburg, specifically in relation to Gov. Rendell and his ties to another law-firm (HT John Lott):

Rather, what’s at issue is the fact that the civil action against Janssen is being prosecuted on behalf of the state by Bailey, Perrin & Bailey, a Houston law firm. And it turns out that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s Office of General Counsel was negotiating this potentially lucrative no-bid contingency fee contract with Bailey Perrin at the same time that the firm’s founding partner, F. Kenneth Bailey, was making repeated campaign contributions totaling more than $90,000 to the Democratic Governor’s 2006 re-election bid.

Janssen’s motion seeks to invalidate the contingency-fee arrangement and lays out a detailed timeline of Mr. Bailey’s political contributions and the subsequent actions of the Governor’s office. Here it is in part:

– On February 23, 2006, Mr. Bailey contributed airplane travel valued at $9,200 to Governor Rendell’s re-election campaign.
– On March 3, 2006, Mr. Bailey contributed $50,000 to the Rendell campaign.
– On May 12, 2006, Mr. Rendell’s office submitted a “request of delegation” to the state Attorney General, a Republican, that would allow the Governor’s office to handle the case against Janssen.
– On May 24, 2006, the request was granted.
– On June 30, 2006, Mr. Bailey contributed $25,000 to the Democratic Governors Association (which gave Mr. Rendell more than $1 million for his campaign in 2006).
– On August 14, 2006, Mr. Bailey signed a no-bid contingency-fee contract with the state.
– On September 15, 2006, Mr. Bailey contributed airplane travel valued at $6,900 to Mr. Rendell’s campaign.
– On October 23, 2006, the Governor’s Office of General Counsel mailed the contingency fee contract to Mr. Bailey.
– On October 30, Mr. Bailey contributed another $25,000 to Mr. Rendell’s campaign.
– On February 26, 2007, Bailey Perrin filed the initial complaint against Janssen on behalf of the state.

Asked about the timing of Mr. Bailey’s political donations, Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo says Bailey Perrin was selected because of “their experience in these kinds of legal matters.” Mr. Ardo says the Governor was aware of the campaign contributions but “had nothing to do with the selection.” Asked why the Governor thought the case should be handled by his office rather than by the state AG, Mr. Ardo says, “the suit involves agencies directly under the Governor’s control, and the General Counsel’s Office believed it could eliminate a lot of unnecessary work by dealing with those agencies directly.” Readers can decide if they buy that one.