Vogelpohl jumps from attorney general to big business campaign to squelch lawsuits | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Vogelpohl jumps from attorney general to big business campaign to squelch lawsuits

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 10:53 AM

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced this morning that Carl Vogelpohl was departing as her chief of staff and Cory Cox would be replacing him. Reason:

Vogelpohl will be heading the Arkansas State Chamber of  Commerce's push for a constitutional amendment to make it difficult — on account of damage and attorney fee caps — to sue corporations or doctors for meaningful damages from injuries or malpractice. The amendment, put on the ballot by the legislature, also would strip the Arkansas Supreme Court of court rule-making authority, transferring the balance of power to the legislature. The ad hoc organization he'll lead is called Arkansans for Jobs and Justice.

The coalition has filed organizational papers, but no financial figures are on file yet. They'll have plenty of money. Participating are the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Medical Society, the Arkansas Trucking Association, the Arkansas Poultry Federation and the Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing homes).

The Arkansas Bar Association and the Arkansas Trial Lawyers and nursing home resident advocates and anyone who favors fair access to the courthouse are lining up to oppose the business lobby amendment. The chamber claims the amendment is critical to compete with other states.

Before working for Rutledge, Vogelpohl had worked as chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin and also headed a political consulting firm.

In addition to the coalition, the big money lobbies will be working independently to continue to elect friendly legislators.

The nursing home lobby, for example, has PACs devote to the House and Senate. and general purposes  they raised more than $250,000 in the third quarter through PACs headed by, among others, nursing home owner Jim Cooper and David Norsworthy, a partner of nursing home magnate Michael Morton. There's lots more where that came from and benefits could be large.

With the right kind of lawmaking at the polls and in the legislature, Morton, for example, would never have to worry again about a $5.2 million jury verdict against his Greenbrier nursing home for negligence like the one that caused a spot of controversy after a judge reduced the reward to $1 million. The judge, Mike Maggio, subsequently went to prison for saying he considered political contributions he'd received as bribes to reduce the award. No one else has been charged.

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