I’ve spilled a lot of pixels here over the last six years on the issue of tort “reform” and the claims from business and the medical profession that personal injury suits are killing them. I’ve made arguments, I’ve cited studies, I’ve pointed out hypocrisy.
But sometimes, nothing beats a good old fashioned graph, like the one at right. That’s right, just five percent of civil cases filed in the U.S. are tort cases. Most are contract matters, basically Business v. Business.
And then there is this other graph, at the left, showing the decline in medical malpractice payments over the last 10 years. You would think, if you listened to the doctors lobby, that the graph should be running the other way. But it doesn’t.
You can read more about the Facts v. Fiction of America’s ‘Litigation Explosion” at this link. It’s something to think about the next time the Chamber of Commerce comes out with its pseudo-scientific survey of….wait for it….corporate lawyers on their feelings about litigation. Seriously. Or maybe the American Tort Reform Association equally laughable “Judicial Hellholes” report that members of the media distribute as if it was news, even though it has “no apparent methodology.”
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.
According to this ABC News article, the US Chamber of Commerce, the largest corporate lobby group in the country, is about to pump $10M into advertising for the coming election to get tort “reformers” elected. It’s the single largest expenditure by any group other than the Democratic and Republican parties.
But this bit jumped out at me:
As the chamber increased its efforts in this year’s midterm elections, chamber CEO and President Thomas Donohue on Thursday issued a tough denunciation of government regulations, threatening to use the courts to block new rules that affect business and setting the chamber up as a major adversary of the Obama administration.
“Litigation is one of our most powerful tools for making sure that federal agencies follow the law and are held accountable,” he said in prepared remarks to the Des Moines Rotary Club. “Today, we are issuing a clarion call for Americans and lawmakers to stop the encroachment of a government by the regulators before it’s too late.”
Now let’s changed the line I italicized and see how it reads:
“Litigation is one of our most powerful tools for making sure that corporations are held accountable.
So, it seems, Big Biz actually loves litigation, and thinks it’s a wonderful “tool” for holding folks accountable. Except, of course, when it’s a consumer seeking to hold the corporation accountable. Then it’s not so hot.
The Chamber of Commerce is, it appears, utterly shameless in its hypocrisy.
A couple of Chamber of Commerce classics from the past:
A hearty congratulations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on this New Year’s Day. They won my prestigious Golden Turkey Award for the most ridiculous and hypocritical lawsuit of the year, after many hours of super-secret deliberations. The vote was unanimous, after I cast the sole vote just moments ago.
The competition was stiff, with the Chamber railing against everyone else bringing lawsuits but forgetting that they brought one of their own.
While I mentioned it’s suit in my Halloween-themed Blawg Review, the suit really does deserve to shine separately.
In October a group called the The Yes Men staged a fake news conference to pretend they were the Chamber and they had seen the light (angels and hosannas flow through background), and that they were reversing course on their opposition to climate legislation.
Not happy about being parodied, mocked and ridiculed, they sued the The Yes Men in a suit that is no doubt destined for the trash heap of hypocrisy, apparently forgetting about that First Amendment thingie.
Some posts on the subject here:
- Chamber Suing Yes Men For “Commercial Identity Theft” (TPM-Muckraker)
- EFF to represent Yes Men in Chamber of Commerce lawsuit (Boing Boing)
Congrats to the Chamber on their fine work, and welcome to the growing stable of tort “reform” hypocrites. We can always count on them to shoot themselves in the foot with over-the-top conduct.
My Golden Turkey, of course, is not to be confused with the book by that name about the worst movies in Hollywood, or any other Golden Turkey awards, of which I imagine a few others might exist. With a last name like mine, I claim squatters rights. Or something like that.