After initially resisting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has agreed to return nearly $130,000 in donations she and her PAC received from the Boston-based Thornton Law Firm, known for asbestos plaintiff’s litigation. An investigation found the law firm paid $1.4 million in bonuses in patterns strongly suggesting they were being used to cover “straw donations” nominally from partners [co-published Boston Globe/Open Secrets story; New York Post]
From 2010 through 2014, Strouss and Bradley along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic party fundraising committees and a parade of politicians from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.
That payback system, which involved other partners as well, helped make Thornton the 11th-ranked law firm nationally for political contributions in 2014, according to data analyzed by the Center, even though the firm is not among the 100 biggest in Massachusetts, much less the U.S.
Capitol Hill recipients of Thornton money include many figures who have played a role in blocking asbestos litigation reform, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).