Herndon strikes campaigner opinions in upcoming Hale v. State Farm trial saying they lack methodology

By Record News | Jul 24, 2018

EAST ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge David Herndon excluded two experts for plaintiffs suing State Farm over its role in the election of current Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier in 2004. 

On July 19, he ruled that the opinions of Democratic campaigners Eric Adelstein of Chicago and Martha McKenna of Baltimore lacked principles or methods. 

“Without the exact methodology and some utilization of a recognized political science or advertising principles, these opinions, based on experience only, are not reliable,” Herndon wrote. 

He plans to hold trial in September and October, on a claim that State Farm supported Karmeier in order to overturn a $1 billion class action judgment. 


Lead plaintiff Mark Hale of New York State represents a class of policyholders who would have recovered damages from the original action. 

Adelstein wrote in his opinion that national and local entities took advantage of the federal tax code and state election laws to elect Karmeier. 

“There is an effective, if not legal, limit to what candidates for the court can raise on their own,” Adelstein wrote. 

He wrote that court candidates in Illinois can’t directly solicit campaign money. 

He also wrote that campaigns have relied on outside groups to advance their candidates directly and indirectly with paid communications and that campaign professionals interpret campaign finance and tax laws and develop procedures that circumvent the intent of campaign finance laws. 

“This allows a variety of entities to effectively spend money in various forms with the common goal of affecting the outcome of an election,” he wrote. 

“The conceptual ties between this messaging that comes from organizations other than the campaign and the messaging that comes from the campaign itself is apparent.” 

At a deposition of Adelstein, State Farm counsel Nick Kahlon said he didn’t understand what wsa meant by taking advantage of laws. 

Kahlon said, “I understand you to be saying, this is what my experience is, that typically you consult with lawyers in a way to do this legally. How do you believe that these organizations in this campaign took advantage of the tax laws?” 

Adelstein said, “Take advantage means using outside entities to pump millions of dollars into these campaigns for and against candidates.” 

Kahlon asked if he believed what he did for 20 years legally circumvented campaign finance laws. 

Adelstein said, “I believe the campaign finance laws are a joke and really smart lawyers have figured out ways to pump millions of dollars into it and I have been a beneficiary of that, yes.” 

Kahlon asked if he applied any mathematics or statistics to this case, and Adelstein said no.  He also asked if he applied any polling data, and Adelstein said no. 

McKenna wrote in her opinion that, “The strategy of tying themes to a candidate’s own messaging is designed to permit a candidate to increase exposure through the advertising of a group other than his or her own campaign. 

“The conceptual ties between this messaging that comes from organizations other than the campaign and the messaging that comes from the campaign itself is dramatically apparent.” 

She wrote that advertisements run by outside groups in the campaign contained little, if any, true voter education. 

She called voter education a pretext for election fraud. 

At a deposition of McKenna, State Farm counsel Matthew Crowl asked her if she had any idea what laws applied to campaign disclosure in Illinois in 2004. 

She said she did not. 

Crowl asked if she opined that State Farm did anything illegal, and she said no. 

He asked if she had an opinion on the extent of State Farm’s involvement in the campaign, and she said she didn’t look into State Farm specifically. 

He asked why she wrote that voter education is a pretext for fraud. 

McKenna said, “You can’t just call anything voter education because it doesn’t have a candidate’s name in it.” 

Crowl said, “But you told us earlier that you don’t have any opinion whatsoever as to whether or not there was any election fraud in this case, right?” 

McKenna said, “I’m saying it’s possible to use voter education as a pretext for election fraud.” 

The opinions of Adelstein and McKenna didn’t satisfy Herndon, who wrote that they didn’t submit advertisements to focus groups to validate their conclusions. 

He wrote that their testimony could have helped jurors and that most jurors don’t know why political advertisements are produced as they are and don’t know the undisclosed objective of the advertisements. 

“Without appropriate methodology though, their testimony would not assist the jury,” Herndon wrote. 

He wrote that they essentially testified that they read or observed advertisements in order to analyze their purpose and the totality of who was responsible for them. 

“To further bolster their opinions, they both read emails and other communications for the purpose of deciding who did what for whom,” Herndon wrote. 

“Based on this, it is hard to discern exactly what they did when they performed this reading and observing to arrive at these specific conclusions.”  

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