Updated: Saturday, 18 Apr 2009, 1:14 PM MDT
Published : Saturday, 18 Apr 2009, 1:14 PM MDT
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Attorney General Gary King on Friday defended a state lawsuit the Wall Street Journal claimed is part of a "pay-to-sue" operation tied to campaign contributions.
An editorial that ran in the Journal on Thursday listed King's office as one of five Democratic AGs and a Democratic governor involved with Houston lawyer F. Kenneth Bailey.
However King called the states' lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company that sold an anti-psychotic drug to the New Mexico's Medicaid program is legitimate consumer protection. He also noted the New Mexico contract with Bailey's law firm was awarded before he became attorney general.
The lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals involving New Mexico and other states alleges the company hid dangerous side effects of the drug while wrongly marketing it to children and the elderly.
King also said the Journal's commentary is part of an ongoing effort by business groups to discourage AGs from suing corporations to protect consumers.
The Journal claimed that in exchange for campaign contributions--$50,000 in King's case--Bailey was handed contracts to sue large corporations on behalf of the states. The law firm then could receive a large portion of the proceeds when the corporation paid a large settlements rather than fight it out in court.
The Journal had earlier focused on Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell whose administration took the unusual step of awarding its own no-bid contract to Bailey's firm as part of the Janssen lawsuit. That came after the state's Republican attorney general, who normally handles such contracts, refused to get involved with Bailey.
King said circumstances in New Mexico were different and that the contract awarded in 2006 by his predecessor Patsy Madrid came after a competitive bidding process.
"(The Journal) implied there was no sound legal theory involved in this lawsuit when we certainly feel there is a sound legal theory involved," King told KRQE News 13. "We think New Mexicans were damaged, and we think the state of New Mexico was damaged through our Medicaid program."
King called the Wall Street Journal column biased and one-sided.
"They never even called us and asked us for our side of the story," King said.
King did extend the agreement with the Bailey firm last year saying it didn't make sense to change attorneys in the middle of a lawsuit.
In addition to King and Rendell, the Journal named the attorneys general of Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi as part of what it called "the state lawsuit racket."
King said he didn't mind being named in the piece but wished the paper printed all the facts to let readers make educated decisions on what is going on.
"I think they are carrying out a political fight now to try and stop activist attorney generals from protecting consumers by trying to make arguments they shouldn't be allowed to bring lawsuits for whatever the reason it is," King said.