Rep. Bruce Braley, the likely Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, traveled to San Francisco this week to raise campaign funds from a national trial lawyers association, according to the group’s attendee list.
The American Association of Justice (AAJ), formerly known as the National Trial Lawyers Association, held its convention July 20-23 at the Bay Area Hilton. The San Francisco Chronicle explained why politicians from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., attended:
“They’re not so much interested in AAJC’s panel discussions on more kinds of litigation than you ever thought possible — from Super Storm Sandy to bladder cancer, antidepressants to motorcycle lawsuits — than they are in being here in the Mother Lode of political fundraising,” wrote reporter Carla Marinucci.
Braley, a former Board of Governors member of AAJ and the former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, has built a solid fundraising advantage in the Senate race by tapping his national network of trial lawyers to fundraise around the country.
His campaign has raised just under $2.3 million and still has more than $2 million cash on hand as of June 30. Lawyers and law firm political action committees raised $395,920 for Braley, making lawyers the largest industry backing his campaign.
Braley is the biggest champion of trial lawyers in Congress. One example: in 2010, when Braley sat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, he inserted a provision in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that would let individual state juries, rather than federal regulators, determine the safety of car designs. Braley’s legislative language would also have added liability to rental car companies for injuries caused by their renters’ driving. These provisions would have crippled businesses and provided a windfall to trial lawyers; no wonder they’re aggressively supporting Braley’s campaign.
It’s not easy to analyze Braley’s campaign finance reports to connect the dots of trial lawyer influence. Braley has talked tough on campaign finance reform, but he still submits his FEC filings on paper rather than electronically. His latest report, covering activity up to June 30, runs more than 1,600 pages.
After a few weeks, FEC bureaucrats hand-type the paper filing information into their databases. Examining these reports is a time-consuming process. Braley adds to the complexity by listing every donor to his campaign—not just those over the disclosure requirement of $200.
So, we know, for example, that Brad Anderson, the likely Democratic nominee for Secretary of State and a consultant at Link Strategies (which works for Braley’s campaign), gave Braley $5 on March 25. Big spender…
Later on in the campaign, TIR will offer detailed stories about Braley’s large donors. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: More from the NRSC…
Despite the massive economic benefits of tort reform, which the Congressional Budget Office projected would mean $54 billion in ObamaCare savings alone, Braley vocally opposed and repeatedly voted against measures to pursue cost-saving medical malpractice reform during the 2009 health-care debate.
Why? The trial lawyers have lent a helping hand to fill Bruce Braley’s campaign coffers and this week, Braley is collecting.
“Bruce Braley might be trained to fool a jury, but his double talking persona and liberal views aren’t going to fool middle class Iowans,” said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. “At the end of the day, he’s just another slick trial lawyer turned slick politician.”
- In November 2009, Braley Voted Against A Motion To Add Medical Malpractice Reform To The Health Care Bill. “Cantor, R-Va., motion to recommit the bill to the House Energy and Commerce Committee with instructions that it be immediately reported back with an amendment that would create a fund that aims to preserve access to the Medicare Advantage program and establish new regulations for medical malpractice lawsuits. It would prohibit the filing of malpractice suits more that three years after an incident, limit attorney fees to a certain percentage of a claimant’s reward, and allow the awarding of punitive damages only if malicious intent is established.” (H.R. 3962, CQ Vote #886: Motion rejected 187-247: R 174-3; D 13-244, 11/7/09, Braley Voted Nay)
- Braley Said He Opposed Tort Reform That Puts A Cap On Damages. “‘I am opposed to the forms of tort reform that put caps on damages of what people can get if they’ve been permanently or severely injured, or killed, due to medical negligence,’ Braley told about 200 people in Manchester, ‘because I trust the people in this room more than I trust people in Congress to decide what’s fair to you and your family.’” (Thomas Beaumont, “Braley, Constituents Debate Tort Reform Merits,” Des Moines Register, 9/3/09)