Who'll get the $20 million lawsuit windfall | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who'll get the $20 million lawsuit windfall

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 10:01 AM

A class action lawsuit all but completed during Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's tenure produced a $21.5 million windfall from the state of Arkansas from Standard and Poor's over misleading financial ratings.

The money has now been paid, as the court settlement directed, into the consumer education fund of the attorney general's office, now held by Leslie Rutledge.

But there's a wrinkle. A Republican-majority legislator that didn't admire how McDaniel had used lawsuit windfalls as a slush fund to advance his own political interests, put a $1 million cap on the consumer fund in the 2013 legislature.

The $21.5 million has now been paid. Rutledge's office had told me previously she intended to abide by the law and pass the overage, at least $20.5 million, over to the state.

Rutledge still has the money. I asked her spokesman, Judd Deere, about the matter yesterday.

The money has been received, and the Attorney General continues to have conversations with the Governor as well as the Leaders of the House and Senate regarding the use of the settlement dollars.

I've sent messages to those three officials about plans for the windfall. No responses so far. The House and Senate leaders have a party to get ready for tonight. It's being thrown by the Republican Party. Presumably the governor and attorney general will drop by. Maybe they can talk.

Lot of competition exists for the money — more tax cuts, for example. And also more tax cuts. There's pre-K education, too. Rutledge also might find some sympathy to her possible notion that she should have a little more leeway in landing a portion of lawsuit settlements.

UPDATE: This from the governor's office, which isn't exactly an answer:

The Governor has visited with the Attorney General and the Legislature about settlement funds in the normal course of business. He generally believes that settlement funds should be used for statewide purposes consistent with the settlement and the law.

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