Sunday, April 28

Senator John "Do you hear a siren? 'Cause I think I heard a siren" Edwards

Roll Call, the weekly newspaper of Congress, is reporting that Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is relying almost exclusively on the deep pockets of the nation's trial lawyers to fund the campaign that everyone expects him to launch for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Edwards, whom I once uncharitably described as "an earnest young pantywaist with presidential ambitions", is a former trial lawyer himself, so it is not surprising that he has the support of that powerful and generous lobby. In fact, of the $1.39 million he has raised for his New American Optimists PAC (you see where the "earnest pantywaist" charge comes from?), fully $1.19 million has come from fellow lawyers, their employees, or their families.

According to Roll Call, "[n]o other Congressional leader or potential presidential contender has such a heavy reliance on a single industry for their leadership PAC." Sen. Edwards's people are embracing this fact (what else could they do?), opining that "[i]t's a positive thing to say about someone that the people who know him the best support him." That is certainly one way of looking at the situation. Another is that the trial lawyers expect a substantial return on their investment from someone who knows just how lucrative a patients' bill of rights could be for them and, conversely, how damaging meaningful tort reform would be. Just looking at the $50,000 donated by the law firm of Weitz & Luxenburg, which describes itself as "one of the nation's foremost mass torts, product liability, and personal injury law firms" (New Yorkers will be familiar with the firm's omnipresent asbestos lawsuit ads and their groundbreaking work in the junk science field of breast implant litigation), I would say that the "pigs slathering at the anticipation of slop" perspective is more realistic than the "for he's a jolly good fellow" view.

It should also come as no surprise that, other than being mistaken for a boy scout who has wondered away from his troop's tour of the Capitol building, the young senator is best known in Washington for leading the Democrats' fight for a patients' bill of rights without a meaningful cap on the potential recovery of damages by trial lawyers, er, injured patients. As for the other pet concern of the trial lawyers' lobby, anyone who doubts what these sultans of the slip-and-fall have to lose, and what American citizens stand to gain, from meaningful tort reform should spend a few minutes reading the collected stories on the Trial Lawyers and Politics page of