In today's Wall Street Journal, I have an opinion piece that explains how the plaintiffs' bar is using its campaign-funding largesse to buy political influence:
Since 1990, the sums donated to federal political candidates by lawyers--excluding lobbyists--exceed $1 billion, according to CRP. Lawyers as a group have given more to federal candidates than any other industry or profession. Their ability to keep tort reform out of the health-care reform bills is unsurprising: Congressional campaign contributions by lawyers in the last election cycle were about $25 million more than the combined total of political donations from doctors, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes.
While some of these campaign donations come from defense lawyers (who also profit from the litigation status quo) giving by plaintiffs attorneys is far higher per lawyer (16 to 120 times greater, depending on the firm, according to Manhattan Institute estimates), and more tightly focused. Over the current six-year senatorial election cycle, four of the top seven donors to the campaign committee and leadership PAC of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) were plaintiffs firms. Plaintiffs firms were the top two donors to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.).
I go on to list some of the goodies the trial bar has been getting out of Congress, as well as some of the top items on its wish list, many of which will be familiar to the regular readers of this site.
Moreover, I argue that the political power of the plaintiffs' bar is integrally linked to the post-Buckley campaign-finance regime: "Contribution limits favor those best able to 'bundle' donations. The plaintiffs bar, with thousands of well-heeled members willing to write $2,000 checks, is well-situated to play this game."
My op-ed today summarizes arguments and facts presented in much more detail in the Center for Legal Policy's newest installment in its Trial Lawyers, Inc. series, Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street--A Report on the Litigation Lobby 2010, which will be available later today here.