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Did David Dewhurst Try To Fight Hurricane Ike Claims Purely to Hurt Democrats?

by: Katherine Haenschen

Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 01:30 PM CDT

Did Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst try to fight Hurricane Ike claims in court specifically to hurt Democrats by keeping money from Democratic donors?

Sure looks like it.

The New York Times and Texas Tribune both published a blockbuster story earlier this week revealing testimony from a deposition in which the former Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) head, Jim Oliver, said he was pressured to fight claims in court to prevent Democratic trial lawyers from winning more money.

From the New York Times, emphasis mine:

...the former head of the insurance association, Jim Oliver, said that two top Republican lawmakers, including the powerful lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, tried to pressure him into fighting more cases in court. He said Dewhurst complained that fees paid to lawyers in settlements were ending up in the coffers of Democratic rivals.

"A lot of these funds are going to the Democratic Party," Mr. Oliver recalled Mr. Dewhurst saying, according to a transcript. Mr. Oliver said the lieutenant governor was swearing and yelling in a conference room behind the Texas Senate chamber, over which he has presided since 2003.

More below the jump.

Of course, trying to defund Texas Democrats by limiting trial lawyer settlements is one of the GOP's favorite plays. The whole rise of tort reform was predicated on limiting who can sue in civil court and drastically curtailing the size of financial settlements so that Democratic trial lawyers can win less money in the courts and thus have less to donate to Democrats. (That's another reason why progressives are wise to be wary of Democrats who reap big financial harvests from Texans for Lawsuit Reform.)

The people of Texas and their right to seek redress in the court of law are the victims in all of this, but the Republicans seem largely unperturbed by that.

Here, however, the claim by Oliver that Dewhurst and State Senator Larry Taylor (R-TLR) specifically pressured him to take more cases to trial comes in a deposition, which was given under oath and comes with it the penalty of a perjury charge if Oliver is found to be lying. You can read the deposition here.

Dewhurst and Taylor seem to be specifically targeting attorney Steve Mostyn, who is the largest donor to Democrats in Texas and nationally, along with other causes such as Gabby Gifford's Americans for Responsible Solutions Super PAC and the Ready for Hillary Super PAC. He was the attorney who took the deposition of Oliver.

Essentially, Dewhurst is suggesting that TWIA fight claims from Hurricane Ike not because the claims lack merit, but because the litigation process could result in less money being paid out to the plaintiffs, and thus less money paid to their attorneys, which would mean less money to be given to Democratic causes.

It's pretty craven to put one's partisan political agenda ahead of the needs of someone who had their roof torn off or their house dumped in the ocean as a result of a natural disaster, but that's who David Dewhurst apparently is.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that the people insured by TWIA are those who could not qualify for windstorm insurance elsewhere, essentially those individuals along the Gulf Coast who are most likely to suffer catastrophic losses from extreme weather events. TWIA was established by the Legislature to make sure that the most vulnerable property owners have a way to gain affordable insurance that the "market" deems a bad investment.

Dewhurst, in suggesting that their claims be viewed through the lens of a political vendetta rather than the need for recovery, shows again why he's unfit to be the #2 elected official in the state.  

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