Parker omitted lawyers' donations
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Chief justice candidate Tom Parker failed to report $100,000 in contributions that came from trial lawyer-funded groups during his 2004 election to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Parker's campaign manager describes it as an innocent clerical error, but Skip Tucker, executive director of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, said, "It appears he's trying to hide money."
Parker is running for chief justice in the Republican primary June 6 against incumbent Drayton Nabers. But the question about his campaign finance reports goes back to his 2004 GOP primary victory over incumbent Justice Jean Brown.
In that race, Parker filed campaign reports with the secretary of state's office reporting $50,000 each in contributions from three political action committees funded by plaintiff lawyers: Venture PAC, Covenant PAC, and Honor PAC.
Those three PACs filed reports
with the secretary of state showing additional contributions to Parker's campaign that he didn't report: $44,500 from Venture PAC, $35,500 from Covenant PAC, and $20,000 from Honor PAC.
The omission was turned up by AVALA, a group that fights plaintiff lawyers over big jury verdicts.
Tucker said Wednesday he could understand someone misplacing a couple of small contributions, but three big contributions from the same type groups are suspicious.
"How do you mislay $100,000?" he asked.
Matt Chancey, manager of Parker's 2004 and 2006 campaigns, took responsibility for the omission and filed a corrected campaign finance report late Thursday afternoon.
He said the three contributions arrived May 25, 2004, by bank wire and went out the next day by bank wire to Parker's ad agency. Parker's campaign contribution report was prepared from copies of checks and bank deposit slips, so the bank wires got omitted, he said.
"It boils down to a clerical error on my part in not catching this," he said Thursday.
Some business groups that supported Brown in the 2004 primary made an issue of Parker's trial lawyer support. The lawyers did not contribute directly to Parker's campaign. Instead, they gave to several PACs, which then contributed to Venture, Covenant and Honor PACs. Those PACs then contributed to Parker and two other Supreme Court candidates, who lost.
"There was never an intent to conceal because obviously the PACs reported it," Chancey said.
Tucker's group does not make endorsements, but he said it does speak out whenever trial lawyers are involved.
"We're one issue, and if that issue is going to be endangered by a candidate, we want our members to know about it, especially in this day when radicals are trying to pass themselves off as conservatives," he said.
Chancey said some groups criticize Parker for taking money from trial lawyers, but say nothing when other Republicans, including Gov. Bob Riley, get similar contributions.
"I think this whole emphasis on trial attorney involvement is obviously political," he said.
Parker was an aide to Roy Moore when he was chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore is now challenging Gov. Bob Riley in the Republican primary.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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