Did Boston-based asbestos plaintiffs' firm tie partners' bonuses to political contributions?

October 31, 2016

Three founding partners, and one partner's wife, at the Boston-based asbestos plaintiffs' firm, Thornton Law Firm, contributed almost $1.6 million to Democratic Party fundraising committees and candidates from 2010 through 2014.  Over the same period, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the political contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days, reports The Boston Globe

Founding partner Michael Thornton made his name in the law by becoming a national leader in asbestos-related litigation. The Globe reports that the firms' political contributions were stepped up just as its "pipeline of asbestos profits" was threatened "when some politicians moved to limit damages in class action lawsuits and to allow the victims of asbestos exposure to file their claims for compensation directly to a national trust fund."

“The use of the word ‘bonus’ for these payments, combined with the fact that they so closely matched the amounts and timing of the donations, would certainly capture the attention of the general counsel’s office at the FEC— and given how much was involved, the public integrity section at the Department of Justice,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington lawyer who specializes in campaign finance.