Out-of-state law firms make big contributions and get handed big cases

Over the past two months, several of the nation’s large law firms have poured money into the campaign coffers of Brian Colón, New Mexico’s state auditor and leading Democratic candidate for attorney general. 

Since 2018, when he was elected state auditor, Colón has received more than $165,000 from out-of-state litigation firms. Of those donations, $124,000 came from just seven firms — or employees and family members affiliated with those firms. 

The donations reflect a practice that is now commonplace: large law firms, usually from out of state, making big donations to campaigns for attorneys general. In New Mexico, many of these same firms have later been offered lucrative contracts to represent the state in litigation and class action lawsuits. 

“It happens a lot in different states,” said James Copland, director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank that has published several reports on states’ use of outside trial lawyers. “And it, at least, creates a colorable impression of a pay-to-play type of arrangement.”