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Jewish World Review July 30, 2002 / 21 Menachem-Av, 5762

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
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Consumer Reports

Dems love for big lawyers=big opportunity | After weeks of playing defensive domestic politics, the President shifted the political momentum last week when he traveled to North Carolina to take on the trial lawyers. The Bush proposal would limit the punitive and pain and suffering damages recovered in malpractice cases. These out of control awards have driven up the costs of health care for all of us while lining the pockets of plaintiffs' lawyers who in turn line the pockets of Democrats.

So it was no big shocker that this modest step toward tort reform was greeted with wails and yelps from former trial lawyer and future presidential candidate Senator John Edwards. He countered that such limits showed no feeling for "victims." Although the White House denied presidential politics were at play in its choice of Edwards' home state for the President's speech, the move was brilliant.

Republicans have the facts on their side and should be relentless in deploying them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Association of American Trial Lawyers gave $1.8 million to candidates so far during the 2002 -- 87 percent to Democrats. During 2000, lawyers and law firms distributed a staggering $112 million -- 69 percent to Democrats. That's almost double the $62 million that BOTP ("Big Oil, Tobacco and Pharmaceutical") gave in 2000 -- 75 percent to the GOP.

The legal lobby has protected its turf beautifully over the years as tort reform has drifted on and off the political stage. But the current public anger at rapacious CEOs and shifty accountants shows that Americans are hungry for justice. While plaintiffs' attorneys prattle on about protecting the interests of the little guy, their clients in class-action suits often get crumbs while the law-firm collects its 33 to 50 percent.

The most recent outrage is the New York suit filed last week against the fast food industry, alleging a failure to warn about the products "addictive" and "harmful" qualities. (The lead plaintiff claims that even after heart surgery, he found himself eating McDonald's or Burger King four or five times a week.) These suits are following the lead of tobacco litigation, which have made hundreds of millions for trial lawyers coast to coast.

The public needs a continuing education on the skyrocketing legal costs that amount to about a 3 percent hidden tax on our wages. Limiting malpractice awards is a good start and should be followed by an aggressive push for "loser pays" initiatives, and caps on lawyers' fees. President Bush stressed these issues on the campaign trail, but with the war and economic mess on his plate, the initiatives were neglected -- until last week. Any time Republicans can force Democrats to defend lawyers, the Republicans will win. Speaking as a recovering attorney, I'd rather be on the side of Big Business over Big Lawyers any day.

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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a radio show syndicated nationally by Westwood One Radio Network. Comment by clicking here.

07/23/02: No time for vacation
07/16/02: Is Homeland Security all wet?
06/25/02: The firing season has arrived
06/18/02: Picking the next chief
06/11/02: Intelligence coup, with much more to do
06/07/02: The Bush administration's foul ball
05/30/02: Post-feminism in the aftermath of 9-11
05/23/02: The press gunning for Ashcroft
05/19/02: El Jefe basks in Carter's Light
05/15/02: Former presidents who don't understand the word "former"
05/07/02: Ozzy deified, many mortified, drugs glorified?
05/01/02: Bush: "California here I come ... sort of"
04/27/02: The good news about conservatives versus Bush
04/17/02: While the cat's away....
04/09/02: Preview of 2004: See how Dick runs!
01/29/02: A kinder, gentler human-rights violator?
11/27/01: Military tribunals provide streamlined justice
09/07/01: Scariest animal wears pants
08/17/01: Depressed after seeing uncut version of Apocalypse Now --- and for good reason
07/20/01: The other, maybe more important, news
06/22/01: Washington's pro-Bono worship is unnerving
06/01/01: Burying conservatism
05/17/01: Ashcroft's abuse of power

© 2002, Laura Ingraham