Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rick Perry Unites, Enrages Trial Lawyers

One of Rick Perry’s decisive accomplishments as Texas governor has been tort reform.  This is starting to shape up in the minds of some otherwise vacillating people as a major factor in their decision whether to support him.  One group where this is really a negative factor (rest assured) is the trial lawyers.

A group that Obama would otherwise label as ‘fat-cat millionaires’ has a large amount of cash that can be deposited in a variety of anti-Perry PACs.  The last time that trial lawyers lined up in such support for a national campaign was in 2004 with John Edwards.
Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred – and fear – as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs’ bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor.

And if Perry ends up as the Republican nominee for president, deep-pocketed trial lawyers intend to play a central role in the campaign to defeat him. . . .
Democratic Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn – who, along with his wife, Amber, donated nearly $9 million to Texas candidates and party committees in the 2010 cycle – said he’s in the process of forming “some federal PACs” to take on Perry. That will likely include a federal super PAC that could take in the kind of massive donations that are permitted in Texas. . . .

[Perry] lists tort reform among the core economic proposals of his presidential campaign and mentioned it in his announcement speech. . . . Perry recalled that “back in the ’80s and ’90s, Texas was a very litigious state,” but now: “We passed the most sweeping tort reform in 2003 and it still is the model in the nation.”

John Coale, a former trial lawyer who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years, agreed that Texas had once been the “golden goose” for plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, where it’s a very bad place now,” Coale said.

“If Perry’s the nominee, the trial lawyers will come out of the woodwork to support Obama, where I don’t know that they would now,” he predicted. “Most of the guys I know don’t like [Obama], think he’s screwed up the economy or taken Bush’s bad economy and made it worse.  But when your livelihood, your money’s on the line, it concentrates the mind.” 
The article goes on to quote quite a few trial lawyers around the country who would mobilise their organisations and their money to oppose Perry.

If you should wish to quibble with the notion that trial lawyers are a potent force in the Democratis Party and that the Democrats are beholden to them, you should take it up with the former Democratic National Chairman, Howard Dean:
This is the answer from a doctor and a politician.  Here is why tort reform is not in the [Obama health care] bill.  When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right?  And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth.
It is hard to imagine a group more universally disliked than trial lawyers (and John Edwards has done nothing to help).  With enemies like this, powerful though they may be, the possibilities of garnering even more support for Perry's efforts grows all the more. 

Update:  And one of those who understand Perry's accomplishment is Professor Stephen Bainbridge of the UCLA School of Law.

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