Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Attorney who grew local asbestos firm to number one in nation also became major political donor along the way

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By The Madison County Record | Jan 8, 2020

Smithgoricates
With Madison County Circuit Judge Sarah Smith, who is also a candidate for the Fifth District Appellate Court. To the right is Fifth District Appellate Court Justice Judy Cates, candidate for Illinois Supreme Court.

EDWARDSVILLE – Murder victim Randy Gori, who contributed almost $3 million to Illinois campaigns favoring Democratic politicians and causes, gave $44,950 to an elected official who is among those leading the murder investigation. 

Gori gave Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons $21,500 for the 2012 election, $17,450 for the 2016 election, and $6,000 in the current cycle. 

Wife Beth Gori gave Gibbons $5,000 in 2011 and $5,400 in 2016, bringing their joint support to $55,350. 

Gori Law partners also have contributed to Gibbons: Greg Sandifer has given $1,000, interim managing partner Sara Salger has given $250 and so has Jason Steinmeyer. 

Former law partner and current Madison County Associate Judge Barry Julian has given Gibbons a total of $11,250 - most recently a $250 contribution in June 2019. Gibbons is running for circuit judge

To local politicians, Randy Gori contributed to county coroner Steve Nonn in each of the last 10 years, for a total of $4,750. 

He gave county Sheriff John Lakin $200 in 2016 and $500 in 2018. 

Nonn and Lakin share responsibility for the investigation with Gibbons. 

Randy Gori gave former county board chairman Alan Dunstan $37,900 from 2010 to 2016, and Beth Gori gave Dunstan $10,800. 

Randy Gori gave auditor Rick Faccin $3,000 in 2011 and $5,000 a year from 2012 through 2018, for a total of $38,000. 

He backed campaigns of chief judge Bill Mudge, circuit judges David Hylla and Kyle Napp, and associate judge Clarence Harrison. 

He gave $80,150 to the county’s Democratic central committee. 

He devoted even greater resources to his party’s statewide efforts. 

He gave $187,900 to the Democratic Party of Illinois, $167,600 to House Speaker Michael Madigan, $147,900 to a Majority Victory committee, $138,400 to a Senate Victory committee, and $102,500 to the county chairmen’s association. 

In all, according to the website of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Gori contributed $2,946,020.17 to campaign committees.

In 2008, Gori partnered with Julian, and eight years later the Edwardsville-based firm surged to become the nation’s number one filer of asbestos litigation. It has remained so since then.

In 2015, Julian retired from the firm and left for Florida, but returned in January 2019 to take a seat on the Madison County bench. His re-registration as a resident of Edwardsville was processed the same day he was appointed associate judge.

By the law firm’s 10-year anniversary in 2018, it had expanded to six offices in Illinois, one in Missouri and satellite offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Orlando, Washington, D.C. and New York City.

At that milestone, the firm employed nearly 200 - 45 attorneys and approximately 150 support staff members - and claimed to have recovered more than $3 billion in settlements for clients across the country. 

Randy Gori planted the seed of his money tree in the year the firm was founded, by contributing $500 to Bill Mudge’s campaign in 2008 for state’s attorney. 

He gave Mudge $3,000 in 2009, and gave the county central committee $800. 

He gave $200 to Brendan Kelly’s campaign for St. Clair County state’s attorney. 

In 2010, he jumped into the ranks of top donors. 

He gave $50,000 to the state party and $19,000 to governor candidate Pat Quinn. 

He gave $25,000 to State Rep. Jay Hoffman, $15,850 to the county central committee, and $10,000 each to the county chairs and the trial lawyers. 

In 2011, he gave $20,000 to the party, $20,000 to its Majority Victory committee, $10,000 to Madigan, and $10,000 to the trial lawyers. 

Locally, he gave $6,250 to Gibbons, $5,550 to the central committee, and $5,000 to former judge Barbara Crowder. 

He paid a media consultant’s $6,000 bill for appellate court candidate Judy Cates. 

In 2012, he gave $15,250 to Gibbons, $14,800 to the central committee, and $11,000 to former state Sen. Bill Haine. 

He gave $10,000 each to the state party, the Majority Victory committee, and a Senate Victory committee. 

He gave $10,000 to Supreme Court candidate Mary Jane Theis.  

He gave $3,000 to Andrew Gleeson, current chief judge of the 20th Circuit, and $1,500 to St. Clair County circuit judge Zina Cruse. 

In 2013, he gave $20,000 to Democratic Majority, $15,000 to the trial lawyers, and $10,000 each to the state party, Madigan, and the county chairs. 

In 2014, he gave $30,500 to a Madison County Good Government committee, $15,250 to the county central committee, and $8,500 to judge Harrison. 

He gave $21,100 each to the state party, Senate Victory, Democratic Majority, and state Sen. John Cullerton. 

He gave $15,000 to the trial lawyers, $10,500 to Madigan and $10,000 to the county chairs. 

He gave $6,900 to Heinz Rudolf, whose time for election as a St. Clair County judge had not arrived.  

In 2015, Gori gave $21,600 to Senate Victory, $20,000 to the trial lawyers, $13,400 to Cullerton, and $12,500 to the county chairs. 

He gave $10,800 each to the state party, Madigan, and Democratic Majority.      

He dug deeply into his pockets for the 2016 campaign. 

He wrote a $235,000 check to Fair Courts Now, in support of unsuccessful Fifth District Appellate Court candidates Jo Beth Weber of Mt. Vernon and Brad Bleyer of Marion. He directly supported Weber’s campaign with $22,654 and Bleyer’s campaign with $950. 

He gave $32,400 to Senate Victory and $21,600 each to the state party, Democratic Majority, and the trial lawyers. 

He gave $20,000 to the county chairs, $10,800 to Madigan, and $8,200 to Cullerton. 

Also in 2016, close races in St. Clair County caught his attention.

He gave $4,000 to 20th Circuit chief judge John Baricevic and $2,000 to circuit judge Robert LeChien. 

Baricevic lost his race, and LeChien won his race but died less than a year later. 

Gori then began taking more and more of his business to St. Clair County. 

There, the number of asbestos suits with his name on them rose from 62 in 2016 to 176 in 2017, 238 in 2018, and 366 in 2019.  

His suits accounted for 23 percent of all civil suits in St. Clair County in 2017, 29 percent in 2018, and 39 percent last year. 

His interest in St. Clair County campaigns has grown accordingly. 

For judicial races in 2018, he gave $11,000 to John O’Gara, $10,500 to Rudolf, and $9,523 to Christopher Kolker. 

All three won. 

He picked further winners by giving $1,000 to treasurer candidate Andrew Lopinot, $500 to board chairman Mark Kern, and $300 to sheriff Rick Watson. 

He also provided $14,000 to St. Clair County’s central Democratic committee. 

He continued supporting statewide efforts in 2017 and 2018, giving $115,600 to Madigan, $53,300 to Senate Victory, $44,400 each to the state party and Democratic Majority, $43,800 to the trial lawyers, and $25,000 to the county chairs. 

He gave $10,000 to the successful campaign of attorney general Kwame Raoul, and $8,500 to the unsuccessful appellate court campaign of Kevin Hoerner. 

He sharply reduced his contributions in 2019, giving nothing to the state party, Madigan, Democratic Majority, or Senate Victory. 

He gave $22,200 to the trial lawyers, $11,600 to Supreme Court candidate Thomas Neville, and $6,000 to Washington Park mayor Rickie Thomas. 

He supported local legislative candidates all along, giving $52,750 to Hoffman, $31,250 to former Rep. Dan Beiser of Godfrey, $20,330 to Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe, and $20,300 to recorder Amy Meyer. 

Farther from home, he gave $26,650 to Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines, $25,000 each to Rep. Michael Halpin of Rock Island and Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison, and $18,600 to Joyce Mason of Gurnee.

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