Halter Company Once Sued By Union Member Now Endorsing Him

06/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

A member of the powerful union conglomerate backing Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's primary campaign against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) once sued the pharmaceutical company on whose board Halter served.

In his effort to dislodge Lincoln from her seat in the Senate, Halter has relied heavily on the monetary support and political backing of the labor community -- above all others, the ALF-CIO, which has pledged to spend at least $3 million on his campaign.

The relationship wasn't always harmonious. Three years ago, the Electrical Workers Local 103 I.B.E.W (a member of the AFL-CIO) joined several other parties in a lawsuit against Threshold Pharmaceutical, a company on whose board Halter had served since October 2004. The group charged Threshold with making false and misleading statements about the toxicity of an experimental drug it had produced -- an allegation that Threshold denied. The parties ultimately settled out of court for $10 million.

Those close to Halter, and even neutral observers, say that the lieutenant governor had absolutely no connection to the lawsuit (he wasn't named in the complaint). His role on the board, which has since ended, earned him more than $12,500.

"Bill Halter was not named in this lawsuit, nor was he on the threshold board committee that dealt with this business matter," said Halter spokesman Bud Jackson. "The case, a dispute with investors that had nothing to do with patient care, was largely dismissed."

The revelations, nevertheless, could complicate Halter's image as the candidate arm-in-arm with the labor community. Certainly, it provides fodder for the Lincoln campaign. Already the lieutenant governor took some heat over reports that he had served on the board of directors for a U.S.-based software company that was cutting costs by hiring workers overseas.

Halter's campaign has pointed out that the company in that case, WebMethods Inc, continued to employ the same number of individuals domestically despite opening shop in India. Supportive unions, for their part, seemed unmoved by the story.

As to Halter's involvement with Threshold Pharmaceutical, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO dismissed the lawsuit as old news and not cause for friction.

"This lawsuit was against a company he was a board member on, was in the past and was settled," said Eddie Vale. "The real concerns working families have are about D.C. insider Lincoln's votes on trade and health care that hurt Arkansas workers."

As for proof that Big Labor remains firmly behind Halter, Vale emailed over a video of the IBEW (the same union that sued Threshold three years ago) rallying for the lieutenant governor today.