• Swamp Watch

Trial Lawyers’ “Big Bank Accounts” Got Him Elected. He’s Returning the Favor.

Read Part I and Part II of our ongoing series on the trial attorneys and politicians behind coastal lawsuits.

As trial lawyers, led by John Carmouche and his Talbot Carmouche & Marcello law firm, have attempted to loot Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, they’ve been generous in doling out campaign cash to state, local, and judicial candidates- over $4 million since 2012. They’ve strategically invested in Parish elections, particularly Parish Presidents in coastal parishes. Should the lawsuits succeed, or result in large settlements, a significant amount of the money will go into the hands of the suing parishes. In particular, the involved parish presidents stand to gain politically as millions of dollars flow into parish coffers, and these parish presidents seem to be the most vocal cheerleaders of the lawsuit.

One of the biggest supporters of the settlement is St. Bernard Parish President, Guy McInnis. McInnis got on board with Carmouche and his legal associates less than two-weeks into his term as parish president, seeing the settlement as an opportunity to bring a substantial amount of funds to his parish, and, as we'll detail below, potentially return a favor to his top contributors. However, it seems that McInnis walked alone in his dealings with the plaintiff attorneys. The council in St. Bernard had voted to give former Parish President David Peralta the authority to sign on with Carmouche and his associates in 2013, but he did not authorize it, saying that a legal battle against the oil and gas industry was not in the best interests of St. Bernard Parish. When McInnis took office in 2016, he quickly jumped on board, controversially and unilaterally signing a contract with Carmouche. In doing so, McInnis circumvented the council and claimed that the Council’s resolution in 2013, stating "the Parish President is hereby authorized" to sign the contract gave him the authority to do so, despite the original ordinance referencing former Parish President David Peralta by name.

McInnis came under fire for his his ties to Carmouche, as Carmouche and his partners have given over $20,000 to McInnis’ campaign, with over $30,000 of McInnis’ campaign funds coming from trial lawyers, including two other firms representing St. Bernard Parish in their lawsuit. Carmouche has a history of padding the coffers of politicians that his practice hopes to work with, and this stunk of the same. Melissa Landry of the Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch said “For three out-of-town lawyers to dump $15,000 into a local parish president's race is highly unusual,” and that “The size and the magnitude of these contributions raise some red flags". McInnis shot back and defended himself by stating "I received many donations from friends who are attorneys who would like to have this lawsuit, but they're not qualified,", and regarding Carmouche’s firm, “This firm is”. According to McInnis’ campaign finance reports, his other attorney friends just may not have bid high enough, as 5 trial attorney firms have contributed to his campaign- and 3/5 of them represent St. Bernard Parish in the lawsuits, with those firms giving McInnis’s campaign $25,000 of the $30,000 collected from trial attorneys. Much like his friends at Talbot Carmouche & Marcello, McInnis is showing his hypocrisy on this issue, as he attacked legislators for choosing “the big bank accounts that got you elected” rather than “the citizens”. In unilaterally signing on with Carmouche just two weeks after being sworn in, it seems McInnis is the one choosing the “big bank accounts” that got him elected.

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