The Chamber of Commerce gloats over success in buying judges
The June 22 issue of the New York Times contained a long article focused on the Chamber of Commerce and its political alter-egos. The Times reported on the Chamber's described intention to subvert the jury system and to by-pass state legislatures by purchasing legal "reforms" and judicial appointments for favored candidates. "We have succeeded beyond our expectations", the chief executive of the Chamber is quoted as telling members at a Washington ballroom. Sadly, the Times did not find fault with the Chamber's effort, and despite the enormous sums spent by the Chamber and its allies, the Times did not express any concern over curbing this effort to "purchase" special favors. It did cite some stunning statistics, however.
For example, the Chamber regularly claims that it has engaged in this propaganda and lobbying campaign only to counter-act the effect of "trial lawyers", yet in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Chamber admited to spending 72.7 million dollars on lobbying, while the trial lawyers spent 8.3 million dollars: barely one-ninth as much as the Chamber. The data reported by the National Center for State Courts demonstrates that the number of lawsuits alleging auto-accident injuries, malpractice and the like have fallen steadily and consistently for more than a decade. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, in 2006 business interests reported contributing twice the amount that lawyers gave to State Supreme Court races. In Michigan, at least, the numbers were even more disparate than the numbers quoted by the Times. Despite these numbers, the Times' author uncritically accepts the Chamber's claim that these numbers "don't tell the whole story", while providing no basis for any other "story".
The Chamber has created several organizations with high-sounding names to disguise its efforts to purchase special legal protection. The "Institute for Legal Reform", a Chamber subsidiary, would not provide the Times with its operating budget, except to say that it is "in the millions". The "American Justice Partnership" and the "American Tort Reform Association" are other names under which the Chamber and its allies disguise their efforts to eliminate consumer and victims' rights. According to numbers previously posted on this site, the Chamber's efforts to purchase judgeships and preferential treatment have overwhelmed the court selection process and ruined the reputation of several State Courts--including Michigan's. A study by the University of Chicago found that the Michigan Supreme Court was the most partisan and anti-consumer Court in the country since it was taken over by John Engler/Chamber of Commerce appointees. The Chamber has announced its intention to spend up to 20 million dollars to secure the re-election of Clifford Taylor in this fall's Michigan elections.