A commenter tipped me to this story that appears on a new San Antonio blog called Plaza de Armas. The bloggers are former investigative reporters for the San Antonio Express News and the Current. The gist of the story is that U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, a well known attorney, is representing a Chinese conglomerate called Shandog Linglong in a major patent infringement case. I have copied the story from the Plaza de Armas blog. The story appears in italics, below: Many politicians are lawyers by trade, but politicians and lawyers operate under a sharply different set of standards. For example, in the legal world, where every defendant is deserving of representation, taking the case of a suspected domestic terrorist is just doing your job. In the political world, however, where every public word you’ve ever uttered isruthlessly dissected for potential talking points, photo ops with Timothy McVeigh don’tplay so well on election day. Since leaving the office of Texas solicitor general in 2008, Ted Cruz has been followingthe code of the legal world, as a successful appellate lawyer with the prominent Houstonfirm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. These days, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, he is also emerging as the golden boy of Texas Republican politics. Slick and highly articulate, Cruz has the kind of “God Bless the U.S.A.” bio that mostpoliticians need professional fiction writers to manufacture: Dad escapes political torturein Cuba, lands in Austin with $100 sewn in his underwear, works his way through theUniversity of Texas by washing dishes for 50 cents an hour, and inspires his son to make it to Harvard Law School. Cruz has stirred an all-out man-crush in veteran columnist George Will, earned the endorsements of a host of GOP-friendly organizations (includingthe Hispanic Republicans of Texas), and can claim Ronald Reagan’s old pal, Ed Meese,as his national campaign chairman. But Cruz’s decision to represent a Chinese conglomerate in a high-stakes patent piracy case could cause him some political headaches over the next year. The case centers around Jordan Fishman, 73, a Sarasota, Florida, businessman who has spent half a century designing and producing underground mining tires. In the late ’90s,Fishman created a new kind of tire that contains a three-inch layer of rubber on theoutside, enabling it to withstand the punishment that comes from working in confinedspaces. By this point, Fishman’s business had much of its manufacturing work done in China and Dubai, because large American companies had stopped making mining tires. In 2003, Fishman took Sam Vance, his sales and marketing manager, to China andintroduced him to the factory that made the mining tires for Fishman’s company. According to Fishman, that’s when things turned shady. “Ultimately, Sam decided that he could go and do this himself, so he went to the factory that we had a contract with in China, trying to get them to manufacture the same productfor him, and cut us out of the mix. I found out about it and fired him,” Fishman says. “About two weeks later, he was in contact with the people in Dubai and ultimately China,and turned over the blueprints to them. They copied the blueprints, which you can’t do. You can go and buy a product and retro-design it, but you can’t copy a blueprint.” Fishman filed suit against Shandong Linglong, the Chinese conglomerate, and last year,after a six-day U.S. District Court trial in Alexandria, Virginia, a jury awarded him $26 million in damages. (Fishman also sued Dubai company owner Surender Kandhari, but Kandhari was dismissed from the case by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.) Last November, Cruz, acting as the attorney for Shandong Linglong, filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the case is still pending. From Cruz’s perspective, the legal battle may the stuff of standard business disputes. While Cruz declined to talk about the case with Plaza de Armas, a campaign representative dismissed it as “a typical appellate case between two private parties.” In purely legal terms, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. In political terms, however,the idea of a Tea Party darling representing an alleged patent thief against a geriatric American entrepreneur, at a time when the U.S. economy is in shambles and China is the largest international holder of American debt, has the whiff of trouble about it. There is a growing perception in this country that China’s 21st-century economic boomhas been bolstered by patent piracy. Only four months ago, the U.S. International Trade Commission released a report contending that Chinese intellectual property theft costAmerican businesses $48 billion in 2009. A week ago, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner grumbled that “[the Chinese] have made possible systematic stealing of intellectual property of American companies and have not been very aggressive to put in place the basic protections for property rights that every serious economy needs over time.” Cruz finds himself in the middle of a tough GOP primary field that includes Lt. Gov.David Dewhurst, San Antonio-based Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. He’s attempted to position himself as the true conservative in the race, someone who will fight to bring fiscal restraint to Washington and help American businesses flourish. While his work for Shandong Linglong has not yet become a factor in the race, it’s unlikely to escape the attention of his opponents. Already, Mac McDowell, host of the local conservative radio show “The Boiling Point,” has devoted a segment to the case, and an obsessive Fort Worth Tea Party activist named Steven Aldrin has flooded countless websites with attacks on Cruz, whom Aldrin has dubbed “the Manchurian Candidate.” A staffer for one of Cruz’s competitors predicts that the patent case will become a topic of discussion in the Senate campaign. “I’ve heard Ted himself on numerous occasions quote the Bible verse, ‘Ye shall knowthem by the company they keep,'” the campaign staffer says. “If he keeps company with Chinese patent thieves over hard-working American entrepreneurs, I would expect him to be held accountable for that. With both the Tea Party voters and mainstream Republican voters, I don’t see how it’ll sit well with them.” * * * * I think very highly of Mr. Cruz as an attorney, having heard him argue the Tom DeLay midcensus redistricting case in the U.S. Supreme Court. I don’t think attorneys ought to be pilloried for the clients they take on. But I agree with the analysis by Plaza de Armas that this is more than a business case; it’s a political case, one that could turn Cruz’s tea party support against him. It’s worth keeping an eye on.
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