Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has been spending a lot of time with his constituents lately as he seeks election to the Senate — not the Iowa voters he would technically represent, but his real constituents: trial lawyers.
Standing in front a table piled with liquor bottles at a fundraiser in Texas in January, Braley boasted: “If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice -- someone who's been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way -- on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
|If that support translated into votes, Democrats like Braley would either change their tune or become extinct. And the trial lawyers would have to go back to earning an honest living.|
He didn't stop there. Referring to home-state GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, Braley raised the ominous (to trial lawyers) possibility that "you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."
Braley's not unusual among Democrats. The party has sold the public interest to the tort bar for millions of dollars in campaign contributions. In the 2014 election cycle alone, the trial lawyers' representative group, the American Association for Justice, gave 97 percent of its $1.76 million in campaign contributions to Democrats. Of the 199 Democrats in the House, 183 received an average of $4,658 from the group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Braley was one of the top individual recipients from the group, getting $14,000.
In return, the party's lawmakers at every level have been extraordinarily generous in drafting laws that have made a generation of trial lawyers rich through a form of legal blackmail — class action lawsuits that pay consumers pennies while the lawyers on those cases reap jackpots worthy of a Powerball lottery. They've also made sure to block attempts at tort reform aimed at helping reduce health care costs and end the renting-out of government authority to enrich a handful of well-connected legal mercenaries.
The consulting firm Towers Watson estimated that the cost of tort litigation rose faster than gross domestic product to $857 per person in 2010, and was projected to rise even more. It's the tax that every man, woman and child pays so the Democrats can keep getting campaign donations from trial lawyers.
It's time to derail the gravy train. In a 2012 poll for the American Tort Reform Association, 89 percent of those surveyed called lawsuit abuse a problem, 83 percent want the system reformed and 60 percent said the number of lawsuits filed against businesses has hurt consumers.
If that support translated into votes, Democrats like Braley would either change their tune or become extinct. And the trial lawyers would have to go back to earning an honest living.
Here's hoping voters in Iowa — and anywhere else candidates are beholden to trial lawyers — remember that in November.