Tort “Reform” Money In A Nutshell

This is a short tale of two news stories this week. And money. The first reports on “trial lawyer” lobbying, and is published in The National Law Journal. The paper reports that the American Association for Justice raised $2.5M thus far this year for its political action committee.

And the second comes from the New York Times, in which it reports that the US Chamber of Commerce can raise more than that from a single corporation:

The annual tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations over $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceed $1 million, one of them for $15 million.

…records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than three million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 donors.

I’ve always wondered what the numbers would look like if you stacked up pro-consumer groups on one side and the Fortune 500 on the other. I think this gives a pretty good clue as to how it would all shake out.

Now I’m not going to pretend this is the sum of all the money. It obviously isn’t. Plenty of lawyers give money to politicians without going though AAJ.  And you can be sure that the huge healthcare, financial, oil, auto, insurance and other companies that stand to profit by cutting back consumer rights give gobs of money on their own without going through the chamber.

Perhaps one day a real study can be done — though with anonymous contributions now a big part of the political world that would be tough. But there seems to be little doubt that, if you could do the tally, the donations of pro-consumer groups would be utterly swamped by those from big business.

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