in Houston, Texas
Texas Watchdog to Democratic mega-donor Steve Mostyn: There you go again
Thursday, Feb 17, 2011, 04:24PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

For the second time in six months, multi-millionaire and Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, a subject in a campaign finance story we have been investigating, appears to be aiming his formidable legal sights at Texas Watchdog.
Mostyn’s beef hasn’t changed, his misrepresentation of our reporting is the same and his bullying tone pitch perfect.

Today, Mostyn sent a letter to our editor, Trent Seibert, and reporter Steve Miller, demanding we take down a story we posted this week with new details on Mostyn’s firm’s $25,000 donation to a state representative who mediated a $189 million insurance settlement on behalf of plaintiffs represented by Mostyn and other attorneys.

After our initial story on the donation last fall, based on documents that any citizen can examine online at the state Ethics Commission website, Mostyn first said we had political motivations, then subpoenaed Seibert and Miller. Good sense and the facts of the story prevailed, and Mostyn dropped the matter.

At the time, we attempted to contact Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, the mediator in the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association settlement and the recipient of Mostyn’s largesse. He did not return our calls at that time, but this week we were able to get his side of the donation story.
In the original story we took note that Mostyn made his donation to a champion of tort reform, a movement inimical to trial lawyers like Mostyn. We also pointed out that Hunter might not have needed the money, having run unopposed in his primary and the general election.

Records show Hunter had been chosen for the mediator’s job by May 6, and the judge in the case says he was on the short list for the job by late 2009. Oddly, for someone seemingly bent on intimidating the Texas Watchdog staff, Mostyn included a photocopy of his donation check, dated May 5, 2010, along with the letter, which demands a retraction and suggests we apologize personally.
Mostyn claims in the letter that he had previously informed "representatives" of Texas Watchdog that the donation was made during a San Antonio fundraising reception held May 5, a claim that leaves us scratching our heads. We certainly don't recall any conversation we had with Mostyn in that connection. Indeed, we called Mostyn for comment on this story -- we always call the subjects of our stories -- and he did not return the call.

Having run out of things to demand of us, Mostyn spends the rest of his letter attempting to impugn us as journalists. Mostly, and this is rich coming from someone so heavily involved in politics, Mostyn has trotted out some old news: In 2008, when Texas Watchdog had just formed, we rented Houston office space from the Patriot Group, a conservative political consulting firm. We moved to our own digs four months later.

Mostyn goes on to accuse Texas Watchdog, again, of political motivations.
Your organization was founded inside the office (sic) a political consulting and lobbying firm called the Patriot Group. … Your desire to deliver results for (the Patriot Group and Texans for Lawsuit Reform) has put you in the dangerous position of repeating a falsehood and calling it ‘news.’
We aren’t surprised Mostyn is mad at us. Our mission from the start was to hold powerful people across the political spectrum accountable. Even casual readers know we hold no fear or favor. We have called out Democrats and Republicans alike - including, as it so happens, clients of the Patriot Group - and examined government spending and secrecy in public agencies.

If that makes powerful people angry, prompts retribution through subpoenas or puts us in a ‘dangerous position,’ as Mostyn suggests in his letter, know that this ain’t our first rodeo. We’ve rubbed plenty of powerful people the wrong way with our award-winning stories, here in Texas and in the other states where we’ve worked as reporters and editors at major newspapers and TV stations.

What we’re wondering, with all of the checks that need cutting and politicians that need influencing, is why Mostyn insists on wasting so much of his time and valuable office letterhead on us.

Maybe we should be flattered.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or

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Photo of the Texas State Capitol by flickr user J Stephen Conn, used via a Creative Commons license.
kevin whited
Thursday, 02/17/2011 - 06:26PM

I guess I'm having trouble following Mostyn's little temper tantrum of a letter.

After two pages of bluster, his substantive complaint is about the word "after" in the headline?

Do I have that right?

Friday, 02/18/2011 - 10:57AM

I'm curious how many other people were on that "short list" and how many of them also received checks from Mostyn as well. And just because he typed a date a day earlier on the face of the check is not proof that it was actually written out on that date, or sent on that date either. It is entirely possible he had a whole stack of checks in the names of ALL of the people on that short list all dated the 5th, and shredded all but the one sent to Hunter. I'm not as stupid as Mostyn would apparently like to think I am.

Robert Cook
Thursday, 06/16/2011 - 10:49PM

As a native Texan (and very proud of it), temporarily living in the Seattle area, I have to shake my head in disgust at the ever pervasive political payoff stories that continually come out of my home state. If they'd start putting some of these crooks in jail, and I mean REAL jail, some of these scumbags might start getting the point. If you're an elected official in Texas, you work for the people of Texas and should only accept your paychecks from the people of Texas, or go to jail. Simple.....

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