Cur­rent to­tals look to re­peat the trend

Poli­tifact

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Con­tin­ued from B Con­tact W. Gard­ner Selby at 445-3644. Twit­ter: @gard­nerselby @poli­ti­fact­texas

She said, too, that she should not have said the per­cent­age held “for over a decade” with­out check­ing the party’s fi­nance re­ports for 2002 through 2004, which she did be­fore fol­low­ing up with us by email.

From 2002 through 2010, Sylvester said, the state party fielded nearly $15.7 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions, not count­ing con­tri­bu­tions from fed­eral Demo­cratic com­mit­tees such as the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee clearly made in con­nec­tion with fed­eral races, which Sylvester said is not her fo­cus.

Sylvester said $11.75 mil­lion, or 75.4 per­cent of the ad­justed to­tal, came from per­sonal-in­jury trial lawyers or groups steered by them, such as the Texas Demo­cratic Trust, which was a po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee guided by the late Fred Baron, a Dal­las lawyer. She later stressed that con­clu­sions should not be reached for 2012 un­til end-of-year fi­nance re­ports are filed in Jan­uary 2013, though rolling in avail­able in­for­ma­tion for the year only mildly re­duces the over­all per­cent­age, to 74.7 per­cent.

Next, we made our own run at iden­ti­fy­ing such con­tri­bu­tions to the party from 2002 through fall 2012. This tally is im­per­fect given that we prob- ably failed to catch some do­na­tions or, con­versely, fil­ter them out. We also did not re­search how many con­tri­bu­tions were re­turned to the donor.

At any rate, our cal­cu­la­tion is that nearly $14 mil­lion of more than $18 mil­lion given to the party, or 75 per­cent, came from trial lawyer in­ter­ests.

Notably, though, the party’s draw from such con­trib­u­tors fluc­tu­ated year to year.

In 2002, an elec­tion year that in­cluded ev­ery leg­isla­tive seat and races for statewide of­fice in­clud­ing gov­er­nor and the U.S. Se­nate, more than 70 trial lawyer-con­nected con­tri­bu­tions ac­counted for about $5.4 mil­lion, or 81 per­cent, of the party’s $6.7 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions.

In 2003, by our cal­cu­la­tion, such con­tri­bu­tions dipped to 26 per­cent of about $509,000 do­nated to the party. Such con­tri­bu­tions ac­counted for 36 per­cent of the party’s do­na­tions in 2004 and 24 per­cent in 2005.

Our rul­ing: Sylvester wrote that for more than a decade, per­son­al­in­jury trial lawyers have ac­counted for more than 80 per­cent of the Texas Demo­cratic Party’s con­tri­bu­tions. When we in­quired, she pegged the per­cent­age at 75 per­cent — what we found as well. So the pub­lished per­cent­age is an ex­ag­ger­a­tion, though cer­tainly trial lawyers have been dom­i­nant party bene­fac­tors. We also found that per­sonal-in­jury at­tor­neys didn’t con­sis­tently ac­count for more than 80 per­cent of party re­ceipts.

We rate the claim as Mostly True.

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