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Trial lawyers still love Specter

That's the title of my op-ed in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which builds upon the claims I made in last week's Wall Street Journal column and goes into more detail on the legislation Specter's proposing. (This legislation is discussed in even more depth in Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street, here and here. Stay tuned: I'm going to write a week-long series on the new Trial Lawyers, Inc. installment, here at Point of Law, starting later today.)

The takeaways from today's column:

In the past year, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has shifted from the Republican to the Democratic caucus, but his alignment with one interest group -- trial lawyers -- has been a constant in his political career. A 2005 Manhattan Institute report singled out Mr. Specter as trial lawyers' "favorite senator," and in a new report looking at the political clout of personal injury attorneys, he stands out as the paradigm example of the lawsuit lobby's influence in Washington. . . .

Mr. Specter has not sponsored three bills beneficial to the plaintiffs' bar because lawsuits are popular. To the contrary, 83 percent of Americans think the legal system makes it too easy to assert invalid claims, and the lawyers' tax-break bill was deemed sufficiently unpopular by the trial lawyers' main lobbyist that she publicly hoped to "tuck it into something" else, such as a bill extending research-and-development tax credits.

But Mr. Specter must fund his campaigns, and lawyers have been generous to the Keystone State's senior senator. In this political cycle, they have donated more than twice as much to Mr. Specter's campaign coffers as has any other industry or profession. One of the senator's top four donors is the plaintiffs firm Kline & Specter, which bears the name of the senator's son, Shanin, one of Philadelphia's top personal injury attorneys. Shanin's friends in the lawsuit industry don't care whether his father is a Democrat or a Republican -- as long as he keeps feathering their nest.

As I noted Saturday, Mr. Specter was not very happy with my column last week. I have a hunch he'll be even less pleased by today's piece, which gives the Senator's legislation the fuller treatment it deserves.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.