Corporate socialism is the overall guiding principle of Republican economic theory. Design a governmental structure that deifies corporate profits. But, sometimes the pro-bidness biases of Greed’s Own Party become more personal. This begets crony capitalism, which rewards specific individuals with monetary windfalls.
When Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the $270 million opioid settlement with Purdue Pharma, the figure included $55.5 million in contingency fees to outside lawyers – chosen without a bidding process – who assisted the state.
As reported in April by Paul Monies and Trevor Brown of Oklahoma Watch, “More than a dozen states use competitive bidding for outside legal services, but it’s not a requirement in Oklahoma.”
Much of the $55.5 million in legal fees was shipped to Texas. But, what intrigued Monies and Brown was the $5.5 million awarded to Glenn Coffee & Associates, for whom they could find “no obvious role documented in court filings and little trial experience in cases like” this.
What they found were connections between Hunter and Coffee.
Former GOP Senate Pro Tem, Coffee was an adviser to Hunter’s 2018 AG campaign: “The Hunter campaign paid Coffee more than $22,700 for legal services in the campaign, according to Ethics Commission reports. It also paid TVC Pro Driver, a Coffee family company, more than $5,000 for the rent of a small office in Oklahoma City.”
AG spokesman Alex Gerszewski told Oklahoma Watch, “The teams have worked indivisibly and in tandem throughout….Work is assigned based on a variety of factors, including individual experience, knowledge, availability and expertise.”
Gerszewski “did not specifically answer questions about whether Coffee took depositions, wrote motions, attended hearings or participated in settlement negotiations or discovery hearings.”
You would think they would if they could. He is the AG’s pal; don’t leave him hanging. But, he is the AG’s pal. Who can object?
Of course, the state has its own, salaried lawyers, whose work on the case IS documented. But, GOPers claim that doling out our money to whom they choose is more efficient.
They even have a name for it: “privatization.”
For example, The Daily Kos reported: “On May 2, a private prison corporation announced that it will reopen the only for-profit prison in the state of Michigan. The GEO Group said it expects the North Lake Correctional Facility in rural Baldwin to generate $37 million for the company in exchange for warehousing ‘criminal aliens,’ or immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, including the federal misdemeanor offense of entering the country illegally.
“The Federal Bureau of Prisons agreement to reopen North Lake is just one of the contracts the company has inked with the federal government since the Trump administration took power. That’s not a bad return on investment for the $395,000 in combined PAC and direct contributions that GEO Group made to various Trump-supporting PACs in 2016, including $225,000 that has attracted a lawsuit by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center.”
When it’s not what you know, but who you know, crony capitalism reigns supreme.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)