• Swamp Watch

Carmouche Defended Diverting Coastal Lawsuit Funds for Tax Cuts, Pay Raises

If Carmouche's coastal lawsuits are truly about fixing the coast, why does he defend using the funds on tax cuts and pay raises- not restoration?

Trial-lawyer John Carmouche paints himself as a valiant fighter for Louisiana's coastline, saying his lawsuits will help clean up and restore Louisiana's coastline. His new ad campaign says that, if successful, his lawsuits will make oil and gas companies "pay to clean up the environmental mess they left along our coast and marshes".

But is that even the case? As we discussed already, the murky details of his largest proposed settlement is unlikely to result in much new money for coastal restoration- but is likely to leave taxpayers with a sizable bill for legal fees incurred by Carmouche's law firm.

Looking to the past, we see that these large settlement amounts amount to slush funds for local governments. Back in 2012 and 2013, Carmouche was able to negotiate settlements in Cameron and Vermillion Parishes for alleged damages to their coastlines by oil and gas companies. The settlements brought in huge amounts of cash for the 2 small parishes- with Cameron Parish receiving a whopping $46 million and Vermillion Parish receiving $4 million.

Considering that those amounts were based on the alleged damages to their coast, and Carmouche's claims that his lawsuits will fund clean-up and restoration efforts, common-sense would dictate that's how those huge settlement amounts would be spent.

But elected officials in both Parishes did what politicians usually do- they used the money as huge-slush funds to spend on anything but fixing the coast.

In Cameron Parish, the School Board used the $46 million on new school buildings, tax cuts, and pay raises for school employees. According to state records at the time, not one penny went to fixing the damages allegedly caused by the companies in the lawsuit.

In Vermillion Parish, $2.5 million of the $4 million settlement- nearly 65% of the funds- was used to increase health care benefits for school employees and give a one-time bonus to every school employee.

As someone who portrays himself as a fighter for fixing the coast, we'd expect John Carmouche to be outraged by the funds from the settlements he negotiated being used for pay raises and tax cuts, instead of fixing the coast he professes to care so much about. Instead, Carmouche defended the Parishes not using the money to fix the coast, saying "They deserve private damages. What they do with their money after, I have no say so on that and I don't know what they did with the money. It's to benefit them. The school and the parish."

Once again though, he proved he only cared about his payday, seeking a 40% contingency fee in the Cameron Parish case. After that, he didn't know or care where the money went.

You can read all of our previous stories on Louisiana's job-killing trial-lawyers here.

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