in Houston, Texas
Attorney Steve Mostyn: ‘Perfectly appropriate’ for a state rep - the mediator on a Mostyn case - to accept $25K campaign contribution from Mostyn's firm
Thursday, Feb 17, 2011, 03:40PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
money

A prominent Houston lawyer says it was “perfectly appropriate” for a state lawmaker to accept his firm’s $25,000 campaign donation in the days before he was chosen to mediate a multimillion-dollar case in which the lawyer was involved.

Steve Mostyn, whose Mostyn Law Firm made the donation to state Rep. Todd Hunter, provided to Texas Watchdog a copy of the check to Hunter's campaign dated May 5 -- a day before Mostyn sent an e-mail to other lawyers in the case saying he approved of Hunter serving as mediator in a massive Hurricane Ike lawsuit.

“Your implication that my contribution to Mr. Hunter was somehow inappropriate, or made with the intent to garner favor, is insulting and wrong," Mostyn said in a letter to Texas Watchdog. "As a political candidate and elected official, it is perfectly appropriate for Mr. Hunter to accept campaign contributions during the political fundraising season.”

Texas Watchdog's story this week regarding the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association litigation highlighted newly released public records that show just how close the timing was between Hunter’s selection as mediator and his acceptance of the campaign donation. The donation was recorded May 11, the same day Hunter e-mailed lawyers for TWIA and the plaintiffs, including Mostyn, to set up mediation talks, according to campaign finance and e-mail records.

It is unclear from the records exactly when Hunter's name was put forward to the lawyers about Hunter serving as mediator, though the e-mail records offer clues. On May 5 -- the same date as Mostyn’s contribution check -- the general counsel for TWIA, David Weber, asked Hunter by e-mail to hold two days later in the month “for some TWIA stuff,” but added: “By the way, I don’t know if the other side has approved you yet.”

The records show that Hunter had been chosen by May 6, when Weber e-mailed him to say, “You are in!”
 
Hunter was on the short list of mediators by late 2009, according to the judge in the case.

Hunter said in an interview this week that the donation had no influence over his decisions as mediator. The case against TWIA was settled for $189 million.

"The contribution was at least committed to before May -- I can tell you that," Hunter told Texas Watchdog. "The contribution had nothing to do with the mediation. I separate my law practice from my campaign practice."

Texas Watchdog had called Mostyn seeking comment on the story before it published, but the call was not returned. His letter to Texas Watchdog, received Thursday, also demands a retraction and claims the story is one in a series of “repeated false attacks against my character.”
 
 
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Contact Lee Ann O'Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.


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