Trial Lawyers Looking for a Handout
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You have to hand it to the trial bar—it’s nothing if not innovative. Its latest scheme to bilk consumers and businesses through more lawsuits involves one of the oldest games in town—passing legislation to advance a special interest.
Most Americans are familiar with earmarks, congressional provisions tucked into bills that direct funds to be spent on specific projects or provide special exemptions and breaks to favored groups. Taxpayers are rightly outraged when they learn of money being spent on “bridges to nowhere” or farm subsidies for wealthy “gentlemen ranchers.”
Trial lawyers have latched onto this widely reviled tactic to create more opportunities to file lawsuits. In fact, over the past two years, the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) has identified 48 trial lawyer earmarks stealthily stuck into everything from homeland security and farm bills to FDA reauthorization and telecom legislation.
One egregious example is a trial lawyer-backed provision slipped into a bill revising the False Claims Act, legislation designed to fight fraud. The provision would expand the federal jurisdiction over lawsuits involving any party that receives government funds—including small business subcontractors and charities—and subject them to triple damages, even for something as insignificant as an inadvertent bookkeeping mistake. It would also entice government employees to disclose information gained in government service for their own monetary gain.
In addition, a handful of tax breaks, which apply only to trial lawyers, have been added to tax and mortgage relief bills. One would have granted a $1.6 billion tax break to trial lawyers by changing the rules on how they incur expenses while representing clients on a contingency fee basis. Fortunately, this trial lawyer tax break has been removed from the bill for now.
As The Washington Examiner’s Quin Hillyer points out, there’s a strong correlation between campaign donations from the Association for American Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and sponsorship of the bills. Of the 55 lead sponsors of the 45 bills The Examiner was able to track, 39 had received substantial AAJ donations since the 1998 cycle, for a total of nearly $1.9 million in contributions.
Trial lawyers thought they could pull a fast one on the American people and line their own pockets, but we’re not going to let them. ILR launched a Web site and a media campaign illustrating the full range of the earmarking effort. The site highlights and monitors each of the trial lawyer bills making its way through the 110th Congress. To learn more, visit www.TrialLawyerEarmarks.com today.