Corruption, pay-to-play schemes and rich attorneys.
These are the words and phrases that have become synonymous with Louisiana Attorney General’s office. So forget the other political races this election cycle.
The only one that gravely matters is the Attorney General’s race because of our current Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, arguably the most corrupt statewide elected official in the state.
No other watchdog agency has done a better job at exposing the ‘pay-to-play’ practices of Caldwell as the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch.
Caldwell has created an environment in the Attorney General’s office where he and his attorney buddies benefit the most through the use of what has become known as the “Buddy System.”
Back in May of 2014, Rep. Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette) penned a piece where he called out Caldwell for his use of using outside legal counsel more and more.
Essentially, Caldwell has found a way to “work around,” in which “private attorneys working on behalf of the state are allowed to negotiate their own fees, which are then awarded by the court. Regardless of what you call them, these arrangements create the illusion that lawsuits can be pursued at no expense to the taxpayer, when in fact they come at a tremendous cost to the public interest,” as Bishop put it.
Thus, the Buddy System had begun.
Then, the Buddy System had to be reigned in through a legal reform bill in June 2014 which prohibited Caldwell from using outside legal counsel on a contingency fee basis, which was already illegal, but closed the loophole that Caldwell used. This bill also capped payments to outside attorneys at $500 an hour.
The legal reform, though, has done little to stop Caldwell from helping out his rich attorney friends.
In December of 2014, in an anti-trust lawsuit against State Farm, Caldwell used his campaign buddy, Edmond Wade Shows, to represent Louisiana in the suit.
Shows of ‘Shows, Cali & Walsh’ in Baton Rouge, who was formerly Caldwell’s campaign treasurer in the last election cycle also contributed $5,000 to Caldwell’s 2011 campaign.
Analysis conducted by the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch exposed that Shows and his law firm have given Caldwell at least $15,000 over the years.
Then earlier this year, the Buddy System struck once again.
In February, the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch found that Caldwell had filed yet another major lawsuit, all with the help of his rich attorney friends. Of the seven outside legal firms helping Caldwell in the suit, five of them had contributed to his campaign.
Here are the legal firms and their contributions to Caldwell:
- Shows Cali & Walsh LLP – Donated $15,000
- Salim-Beasley LLc – Donated $6,000
- Morrow Morrow Ryan & Bassett – Donated $11,550
- Hammonds Sills Adkins & Guice LLP – Donated $200
- Usry, Weeks & Matthews APLC – Donated more than $100,000
Specifically, Attorney T. Allen Usry with Usry, Weeks & Matthews APLC and E. Wade Shows with Shows Cali & Walsh LLP have benefited from over 30 “highly lucrative contracts” with Caldwell’s office, as the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch puts it.
On top of that, outside law firms have made more than $54 million in legal fees through partnering with Caldwell since 2011.
These are the kind of ‘pay-to-play’ practices that Caldwell is used to getting away with. But, with some viable alternatives in the Attorney General’s race this election cycle, that could all change.
Go vote against Caldwell, if nothing else.