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Which industry has given over $4.5M to Nevada campaigns, PACs since 2017?

Updated March 2, 2024 - 1:19 pm

A group of personal injury law firms have given over $4.5 million to campaigns and political committees in Nevada since 2017, a report shows.

The report was published by the American Tort Reform Association, which represents corporations and others seeking reforms including placing limits on punitive damages, reforming health care liability and fighting what its website calls “the cycle of lawsuit abuse” by personal injury lawyers.

The association reported that a group of 20 firms, many of which specialize in personal injury law, have contributed large-dollar amounts to several candidates and political action committees over the last six years.

A large portion of the contributions made by those firms — approximately $2.8 million — were given to Citizens for Justice, a political action committee run by the Nevada Justice Association, an organization for the state’s trial lawyers. Other high-dollar contribution recipients include former Gov. Steve Sisolak, who received $134,500, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lidia Stiglich, who received $85,658, and Attorney General Aaron Ford, who received $83,000, according to the report.

ATRA President Tiger Joyce said the contributions raise concerns about the kind of influence plaintiffs’ firms have over the state’s political landscape.

“These reports show the massive amounts of money the trial bar is pouring into the system,” Joyce said. “The large sums donated by these plaintiffs’ firms, particularly to the state trial bar’s political action committee, demonstrate that the personal injury lawyers attempt to tilt the system further in their favor. They support candidates in order to expand liability and allow trial lawyers to seek outsized damage awards in court and then receive one-third if not more of the ultimate payout, further lining their pockets.”

According to the report, 16 of the 20 candidates who received the most money from the firms were running for seats in the judicial branch.

Ad spending noted

A second report by the association, published with the report on political contributions, said that approximately $137 million was spent in 2023 on advertisements for local legal services in Nevada, with more than 1.6 million TV, print, radio, digital and outdoor ads combined. That spending has jumped more than 25 percent since 2019, according to the report.

Some of the firms that spent the most on advertising also contributed money to candidates and Citizens for Justice, the report said.

Trial lawyers and trial lawyer groups have long been major political contributors in Nevada, said Ken Miller, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. But they aren’t the biggest fish in the pond, Miller said, and the amount contributed by trial lawyers was less than what he would have expected.

“In the state of Nevada, their efforts are dwarfed by gaming interests and real estate, and some others,” he said.

Miller also said many state legislators in Nevada — and nationwide — are lawyers, making it all the more likely that money would flow from the sector where those lawmakers work and developed relationships.

Lawyer: No attempt to influence

Justin Watkins, who sits on the Citizens for Justice board, said the committee gives money to support candidates that are aligned with their interests.

“There’s no attempt to influence with the contributions. They already have their alignment with our ideals, and we’re trying to support them which is, frankly, no different than any other interest in the state, business or otherwise,” Watkins said.

Watkins said the group, which he said is focused on protecting the Seventh Amendment and an individual’s access to the court, doesn’t just focus on issues related to torts. He also said many contributors to the PAC aren’t plaintiffs’ firms.

The group also opposes tort reform, a movement that aims to restrict the ability for individuals to bring lawsuits for damages in court.

Citizens for Justice doesn’t give money to or get involved in judicial candidates, Watkins noted.

Citizens for Justice was the third-largest single contributor in the state during the 2022 election cycle, giving largely to Democrats or other groups, according to a report by the Nevada Independent.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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