North Dakota’s Tobacco Lawyer Still Getting $2 – $3 Million Per Year

John J. McConnell is a Rhode Island trial lawyer who, once upon a time, was appointed by the State of North Dakota (first by former Atorrney General Heidi Heitkamp, then subsequently by current AG Wayne Stenehjem through 2009) to handle North Dakota’s involvement in the multi-state tobacco lawsuits.

McConnell, who has given $600,000 to various Democrat campaigns including $50,000 to President Obama’s inauguration fund, is now up for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench by Obama.

Not surprisingly, given McConnell’s overt partisanship and legal activism against the tobacco industry (among others), his appointment is quite controversial. But what shocked me in perusing his disclosure to the Senate Judiciary Committee which is considering his nomination is the fact that McConnell’s work for North Dakota (and a few other states) on the tobacco lawsuits and settlements has netted him an estimated $2 – $3 million per year since 1999, and will continue to line his pockets at a rate of $2.5 million to $3.1 million per year through 2024.

Assuming a $2.5 million average over the course of those 25 years, that’s $62 million. For just one of the army of lawyers involved in the anti-tobacco lawsuits.

Tobacco prohibitionism is big business, it seems. Makes you wonder if this is all really about our health, or if it’s about making people like Mr. McConnell rich.

On a related note, our former AG Heidi Heitkamp has been very active working on behalf of anti-tobacco groups here in North Dakota. Specifically, Heitkamp campaigned long and hard on a well-funded campaign to convince the taxpayers to pass Measure 3 on the 2008 ballot which created a state-level, anti-tobacco government agency.

This all makes me wonder how much Heitkamp is now being paid by the various anti-tobacco groups that have sprung up around the river of money flowing out of this lawsuit.

Update: More about McConnell’s appointment hearings at Point of Law.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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