Sunday, February 13, 2005

Crony Corps. Finance “ The Bush” Fleecing of Americans

Groups have campaigned for a restructuring of lawsuit rules off and on over the past five years and before now have spent $200 million seeking favorable legislation. Those groups are prepared to spend an additional $50 million or more this year. Last week, they began to see the fruits of their labor when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure that would sharply limit the ability of people to file class-action lawsuits against companies.

A group of Fortune 500 companies that are defendants in asbestos cases have formed the Asbestos Study Group, which paid annual lobbying fees of more than $10 million in 2003 and 2004. The American Medical Association -- determined to protect doctors in malpractice cases -- has an annual lobbying budget of more than $17 million. The American Insurance Institute spends about $5 million annually, a significant share of which goes to efforts to restrict lawsuits.

A 2003 study by the consumer group Public Citizen, which opposes most of the Republican-backed lawsuit legislation, found that more than 475 lobbyists had been hired by more than 100 trade associations and corporations representing industries that often are defendants in class-action litigation, including tobacco, drugs, automobiles and large retailers.
In addition, many conservative think tanks have joined Cato in supporting Social Security privatization, recognizing that the proposal offers a rare opportunity to restructure a pillar of liberalism and the social welfare state.

The Heritage Foundation, the National Center for Policy Analysis, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and such advocacy groups as the Club for Growth, Progress for America, FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform and the Free Enterprise Fund are now in the middle of the fight.

"Conservatives intend to fix Social Security, welfare and Medicare -- the very programs that liberals created. And we'll do so no matter how often the left yells, 'Stop!' " Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, vowed recently.
Republican strategists see in both Social Security and lawsuit legislation the possibility of strengthening their center-right coalition. Enactment of the latter could also have the effect of weakening the Democratic Party by reducing the income of pro-Democratic trial lawyers, a major source of campaign contributions.

The Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers have set up two umbrella organizations.
One, the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, will pressure Congress directly, capitalizing on the lobbying staffs and corporate executives of the member companies.
The other, the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, will conduct a nationwide television and grass-roots pressure campaign costing $15 million to $20 million.

COMPASS has hired OnPoint Advocacy to conduct grass-roots lobbying and Apco Worldwide Inc. for public relations. Tita Freeman, communications director at the Business Roundtable, said COMPASS has a budget of $15 million to $20 million, which may grow as the fight progresses. Link

No comments: