Examiner Editorial: Why Democrats won’t cross trial lawyers

In the ranking by OpenSecrets.org of campaign contributions by the top 100 special interests during the past 20 years, the American Association for Justice — formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America — ranks sixth. The AAJ is trial lawyers’ Washington lobbying group, and 90 percent of its $30.7 million in contributions since 1989 went to Democrats. At the other end of this pay-to-play process in the Capitol, AAJ has spent nearly $14 million lobbying Congress just since Democrats won control of both chambers, including $2.3 million so far this year.

The Democratic focus of the plaintiffs’ bar is even more obvious from campaign contributions of National Journal’s top 15 class-action trial attorney firms.

As the Examiner’s David Freddoso and Kevin Mooney reported last week, those firms have in 2009 contributed more than $636,000, 99 percent of which went to Democrats. And employees of those firms have given more than $236,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces an uphill re-election battle, but the top trial lawyers’ firms are right there for him, with contributions totaling some $54,000 to date.

As governors like Texas’ Rick Perry and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour have demonstrated in recent years, capping medical malpractice suits can save billions of dollars by lowering the cost of insurance for providers and increasing access to quality care. Without such caps, trial lawyers stand to continue raking in millions of dollars in fees by bringing suspect suits. And, as the aforementioned data show, it’s easy to see where those dollars end up. With such a lucrative quid pro quo, Democrats in the White House and Congress aren’t likely to do anything to cross this special interest.