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Exposing the work of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force in Pennsylvania: How Pennsylvania corporations and Pennsylvania legislators have teamed up to deny us our most basic civil justice rights.
by Taking Back Our Courts A project of Keystone Progress June, 2012
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Table of Contents
Introduction The Impact of ALEC..........................................................................................4 Questions Raised..............................................................................................6 Executive Summary……..……………………………………………………....….8 ALEC Defined The Basics of ALEC ………………………………………………………………….9 Supporters of ALEC Nation-wide members of ALEC ……….…………………………….………….11 Pennsylvania legislative members of ALEC ………………………………….12 Pennsylvania corporate members of ALEC…………………………………..13 ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force Brief background..………………………………………………………….…..….14 Victor Schwartz…………………………………………………………………......15 Civil justice denial in Pennsylvania..………………….……………….…..…...16 Asbestos injuries…………………………..………….……………………..16 Caps on noneconomic damages.……………………….…….…….….17 Venue reform……………….……………………………………..…………19 Jury reform………………….………..………….…….……..…...….………20 Stand your ground law ….…..…………..……..………………..……...…21 ALEC leaders…………………………………………...……….…...….……23 Corporate/Legal members.…………………………………………...…..24 Conclusion………………..……………………………………………………...….25 Appendix ALEC model bills and CM&D analysis...........................................................27 Pennsylvania courts diagram........................................................................33 Notes..…………………………….......................................................................34
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The Impact of ALEC
“The Times reported that ALEC turns its legislative members into ‘stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.” – “PA taxpayers footed $234K bill for ‘corporate front group’ that pushes legislation” The Morning Call, 5/11/12 At the close of the constitutional convention outside Independence Hall in 1787, Benjamin Franklin is famously known for his response to a Philadelphia woman inquiring about the type of government the founders had created: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” America owes more than a debt of gratitude to Benjamin Franklin and our Founding Fathers – we owe our constant vigilance in order to protect and promote a vibrant democracy in all corners of our country and our government. However, due to the infiltration of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the very nature of our government as a republic is being challenged. ALEC has successfully bypassed fundamental principles meant to protect our democracy in order to manufacture a government made by special interests lobbyists, for special interests lobbyists. If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he would likely see that the republic the founding fathers constituted is being taken away from us bit-by-bit, bill-by-bill, and stateby-state. Largely after the Trayvon Martin shooting in February 2012, and the public’s subsequent realization of Florida’s ALEC sponsored and created “stand your ground” law, public outrage has been expressed across the country.1 The public, the media, and good government groups are slowly realizing the danger behind the many hundreds of bills passed by legislatures, sponsored by ALEC – just like the Stand Your Ground Law. What is ALEC? According to their website it “[w]orks to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.2”
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This fairly ambiguous and seemingly non-threatening short description of ALEC is how it portrays itself to the public-at-large. ALEC claims it is harmless and only working to promote what it sees as policies that are in the best interest of the American public. ALEC’s stealth legislature has passed hundreds of laws for decades across the country, which benefit corporate America and harm the rights of the majority of everyday citizens. ALEC’s goal is to hypercorporatize the country so that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. And as of April 2012, ALEC publicly declared it is doubling down on these efforts to eradicate the middle class.3 There are a number of policy promotion organizations that attempt to advocate for preferred legislation – but ALEC is unique as it does much more than this. As New York Times points out, “a review of internal ALEC documents show a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level.” The records show “how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues.”4 Furthermore, ALEC holds regular meetings across the country where they pay for electedofficials/legislative members of various states to come and meet privately with special interests lobbyists. Common Cause has found that “corporate members pay stipends — it calls them “scholarships” — for lawmakers to travel to annual conferences, including a four-day retreat where ALEC spends as much as $250,000 on child care for members’ families.5 A number of Pennsylvania news outlets have reported on the evidence showing Pennsylvania representatives who have benefited from ALEC’s financial contributions for travel and food.6 The model laws ALEC creates originate from ALEC’s so-called ‘task forces.’ These task forces include the Civil Justice Task Force,7 the Commerce, Insurance and Economic
http://www.alec.org/2012/04/alec-sharpens-focus-on-jobs-free-markets-and-growth-announces-the-endof-the-task-force-that-dealt-with-non-economic-issues/ 4 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/us/alec-a-tax-exempt-group-mixes-legislators-andlobbyists.html?pagewanted=all 5 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/us/alec-a-tax-exempt-group-mixes-legislators-andlobbyists.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all 6 http://www.politicspa.com/in-pa-the-battle-against-alec-rages-on/35723/ 7 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Civil_Justice_Task_Force
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Development Task Force,8 the Education Task Force,9 the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force,10 the Health and Human Services Task Force,11 the International Relations Task Force,12 Public Safety and Elections Task Force,13 the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force,14 and the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force.15 Each task force includes corporate lobbyists and legislators who meet behind closed doors to draft legislation to benefit big business. This process is designed to avoid compliance with state lobbying laws.16 The majority of which maintain that any such meetings between lobbyists and elected officials should be kept on public record. Additionally, under no circumstances are elected officials supposed to directly benefit from lobbyists financial support for travel, lodging, food, etc. in any effort to influence the creation of our laws. This special report focuses squarely on ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. The Civil Justice Task Force has been highly successful in pushing legislation through that prevents consumers from their constitutionally protected civil justice rights. ALEC has targeted those who have been made ill due to asbestos poisoning on the job, caps on economic and noneconomic damages by products which have caused death and severe health implications, and even challenged an individual’s right of a trial by a jury of their peers.
Many groups like the Center for Justice and Democracy17 and Media Matters18 are only some of the few organizations that have started to dig deeper into the work of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. Some of their findings and new ones discovered solely in Pennsylvania will be discussed later in this report. Investigations by several grassroots groups have started to look more closely into ALEC. These groups are concerned with trying to determine the exact nature of the relationships between our elected officials and these corporate lobbyists. Questions have included:
ce 9 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Education_Task_Force 10 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Energy,_Environment_and_Agriculture_Task_Force 11 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Health_and_Human_Services_Task_Force 12 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=International_Relations_Task_Force 13 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Public_Safety_and_Elections_Task_Force 14 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Tax_and_Fiscal_Policy_Task_Force 15http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Telecommunications_and_Information_Technology_Task_For ce 16 http://government.westlaw.com/linkedslice/default.asp?SP=pac-1000 17 http://www.thepoptort.com/2012/05/cutting-class-actions-that-is.html 18 http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/201205090002
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How does this “public-private partnership” on state bills impact our laws? In light of ALEC’s ties to the largest corporations in the world (i.e. Exxon Mobil, Tobacco companies) what does ALEC really want to achieve? What has the impact been on civil justice rights in our states? (Pennsylvania included) Are these lobbyists/legislator meetings legal?
These long-standing advocates for democracy have included groups such as: Common Cause19, the League of Women Voters20, Center for Media & Democracy21, and Progress Now.22 These investigations have started to yield results. Reports by groups like these have started to affect how ALEC has done business and a number of corporations and legislators have publicly denounced their membership with ALEC. Keystone Progress has joined groups like Common Cause and the Center for Media & Democracy in investigating and exposing ALEC – specifically in Pennsylvania. Keystone Progress originally filed its report on ALEC in August of 201123, but with this report Keystone Progress’ civil justice project - Taking Back Our Courts – intends to investigate the work by ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force in Pennsylvania Taking Back Our Courts has already taken on other groups that inform and support ALEC members – such as the American Tort Reform Association – in our April 2012 report.24 Justice Denied in Pennsylvania is a continued effort to similarly provide the citizens of Pennsylvania with the information they need to protect the republic that Benjamin Franklin and our Founding Fathers provided us.
http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=7743229 http://www.lwv.org/blog/meet-alec 21 http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed 22 http://www.progressnow.org/ 23 http://www.scribd.com/doc/93693995/KP-ALEC-Report 24 http://takingbackourcourts.org/justice-for-philadelphia-courts-an-analysis-of-the-quality-of-justiceprovided-by-philadelphia-courts/
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Here are a few of the key data highlights mentioned throughout Justice Denied.
ALEC has created a stealth legislature, bringing together corporate lobbyists and elected state legislators who meet behind closed doors to initiate corporate-friendly bills to introduce, sometimes verbatim, into our General Assembly. ALEC brags about the work its Civil Justice Task Force has been able get done over the past ten-plus years by stating, “Since 1999, forty-three states have enacted legislation based on ALEC Civil Justice Task Force legislation.”25 The centerpiece of Task Force projects is ALEC model legislation. ALEC is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states. To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of special interest model legislation.26 In 2001, as part of their ALEC Civil Justice Task Force work, “Crown Holdings Corporation spent over “$100,000 in an attempt to influence the [Pennsylvania] state legislature” over the span of three months in an effort to escape responsibility for asbestos related worker injuries and death.27 Bucks County Judge Robert J. Mellon declared a “reevaluation of the constitutionality of the statutory cap on damages…is necessary.”28 Furthermore, due to its severely harmful nature to the public the Philadelphia Bar Association has even officially declared it is against any or all attempts to enact legislation to create caps on noneconomic damages.29
Because of public outrage over ALEC’s infiltration into Pennsylvania’s legislature, at least 18 Pennsylvania legislators have separated from ALEC. However, 48 Pennsylvania legislators are still listed as ALEC supporters and members.
http://www.alec.org/wp-content/uploads/TortReformBootCampGuideFinal.pdf#page=4 http://www.alec.org/membership/legislative-membership/ 27 http://old.post-gazette.com/regionstate/20010807lobbyistsreg2p2.asp 28 http://articles.philly.com/2012-05-25/news/31851370_1_bus-accident-liability-limit-state-cap 29 http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/BoardResolution10105210312003?appNum=1
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The Basics of
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate clearinghouse for special-interest laws. The organization arranges for corporate lobbyists and conservative legislators to hold joint secret meetings to craft cookie-cutter bills that increase the profits of global corporations at the public’s expense.30,31 This stealth legislature approach started in 1973, when ALEC was formed by a group of conservative activists and corporate allies intended to focus efforts to advance the hyper-corporate agenda in state legislatures across the country. Almost forty years later, ALEC is made of more than 300 corporate and 2,000 legislative members who work behind closed doors to approve special interests’ legislation designed to increase corporate profits at public expense. These corporate-approved bills are then introduced in states like Pennsylvania, where lobbyists of many of those same corporations also write checks donating to the political campaigns of lawmakers who advance their agenda in the state legislatures, including Pennsylvania’s. ALEC keeps close watch on the legislation it prefers to pass. Just within the past few months, as result of a Freedom of Information request Common Cause was able to obtain a tracking sheet in which bills in dozens of states are being pushed through state legislators that ALEC itself drafted.32, 33 ALEC operates like a good business – efficient and relentless – in its attempt to pass special interests’ legislation. ALEC says it functions as a members-only private go between for corporate lobbyists and publicly elected officials. ALEC calls this their “public-private” partnership.34 This partnership includes both corporate lobbyists and publicly elected officials.
http://progresstexas.org/blog/progress-texas-releases-report-alec-and-virtual-schools-texas http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-03/a-year-in-the-life-of-an-alec-bill 32 http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7Bfb3c17e2-cdd1-4df6-92be-bd4429893665%7D/5ALEC_CJ_tracking.pdf 33 http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-03/a-year-in-the-life-of-an-alec-bill 34 http://www.alec.org/membership/private-sector-membership/
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ALEC’s centerpiece for “legislative members” is what many groups have had the most concern about. According to their website, the services ALEC offers legislator members is as follows: The centerpiece of Task Force projects is ALEC model legislation. ALEC is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states. To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation.35 The “model legislation” is actually word-forword documents that promote special interests that legislators take directly from ALEC and introduce them as bills on state senate and house floors all over the country. Samples of this can be seen on page 7 of Keystone Progress’ 2011 report on ALEC,36 on page 14 of this report discussing ALEC’s Asbestos related legislation, on page 15 of this report discussing Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine law, as well as just a few additional examples provided by the Center for Media & Democracy of ALEC’s Civil Justice stealth legislation work in the Appendix of this report. ALEC offers corporate representatives a chance to communicate and influence directly the state legislators who introduce our bills in a forum that avoids state and national lobbying laws. ALEC has been able to provide this service for corporations by listing itself as a “charity” organization to the Internal Revenue Service37 - despite its obvious work as a lobbying entity with a corporate agenda. The following section specifically lists the current private and publicly elected members of ALEC nationwide and in Pennsylvania. As a result of the work by groups, like Keystone Progress’ in 2011, many of these corporations and elected officials have started to drop from ALEC’s official list of members.
http://www.alec.org/membership/legislative-membership/ http://www.scribd.com/doc/93693995/KP-ALEC-Report 37 http://www.npr.org/2012/04/19/150984876/conservative-group-criticized-for-tax-exempt-status
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Supporters of ALEC
According to its website ALEC charges anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000 per corporate member for direct private interaction with legislators behind closed doors .38 Some reports – such as Keystone Progress’ 2011 report – have shown that ALEC has raised millions from corporate sponsors within the last few years.39 It is with these large corporate donations that ALEC is able to operate a work force of over 30 staff members and hold conferences regularly across the country.40 ALEC Exposed currently keeps up-to-date records of every single corporate member of ALEC41, corporate members of ALEC who have dropped their membership42, Law Firm members of ALEC43, nonprofits of ALEC44, governmental groups45, elected officials of ALEC46, and elected officials who have dropped from ALEC47. Some notable corporate members of ALEC include Exxon Mobil, Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. Well-known elected officials who have supported ALEC include former Vice President Dick Cheney, Governor Rick Perry (TX), and Senator Bill Seitz (OH). ALEC Exposed has a full list of Pennsylvania elected officials who are members of ALEC.48 Since the realization of ALEC’s work behind the “Stand Your Ground Law,” many of these organizations have chosen to drop their membership under wide public outcry. Recent notable corporate members who have dropped from ALEC include Wal-mart, Coca-Cola, and Best Buy.
http://www.alec.org/membership/private-sector-membership/ http://www.scribd.com/doc/93693995/KP-ALEC-Report 40 http://www.scribd.com/doc/93693995/KP-ALEC-Report 41 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations 42 http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Corporations_Who_Have_Cut_Ties_to_ALEC 43 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations 44 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Non-Profits 45 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Governmental_Groups 46 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians 47 http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Legislators_Who_Have_Cut_Ties_to_ALEC 48 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Politicians
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For similar reasons and with added public outrage over ALEC’s infiltration into our state legislatures, at least 18 Pennsylvania legislators have also separated from ALEC. The following lists however are of 48 Pennsylvania legislators who are currently still members/supporters of ALEC as of June, 201249: Pennsylvania House Members:
Rep. Adolph, William R 165 Rep. Baker, Matthew R 68 Rep. Barrar, Stephen R 160 Rep. Boback, Karen R 117 Rep. Bear, John R 97 Rep. Boyd, Scott R 43 Rep. Clymer, Paul R 145 Rep. Cox, Jim R 129 Rep. Day, Gary R 187 Rep. Delozier, Sheryl R 88 Rep. Evans, John R 5 Rep. Gabler, Matt R 75 Rep. Geist, Richard R 79 Rep. Gingrich, Mauree R 101 Rep. Godshall, Robert R 53 Rep. Grell, Glen R 87 Rep. Grove, Seth R 196 Rep. Han, Marcia R 138 Rep. Harhart, Julie R 183 Rep. Helm, Susan R 104 Rep. Hennessey, Tim R 26 Rep. Hess, Dick R 78 Rep. Hutchinson, Scott R 64 Rep. Killion, Thomas R 168 Rep. Knowles, Jerry R 124 Rep. Marsico, Ron R 105 Rep. Metcalfe, Daryl R 12 Rep. Miller, Ron R 93 Rep. Pickett, Tina R 110 Rep. Rapp, Kathy R 65 Rep. Saylor, Stan R 94 Rep. Schroder, Curt R 155 Rep. Smith, Sam R 66 Rep. Stephens, Todd R 151 Rep. Stern, Jerry R 80 Rep. Stevenson, Richard R 8 Rep. Taylor, John R 177 Rep. Toepel, Marcy R 147 Rep. Toohil, Tarah R 116
Pennsylvania Senate Members: Sen. Argall David R 29 Sen. Baker, Lisa R 29 Sen. Browne, Patrick R 16 Sen. Earll, Jane R 49 Sen. Eichelberger, John R 30 Sen. McIlhinney, Charles R 10 Sen. Piccola, Jeffrey R 15 Sen. Pippy, John R 37 Sen. Robbins, Robert D. R 50
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Known Pennsylvania ALEC Corporate members
The current list of well-known corporate members with headquarters in Pennsylvania can be found in the following spreadsheet50. There may be more but due to the secretive nature of ALEC there is no way to know for sure what additional companies are members:
Note that Bayer, Crown Holdings (formerly Crown Cork & Seal), and GlaxoSmithKline are the three known Pennsylvania based corporations who are members of ALEC’s civil justice task force.51 These are the companies that have been shown to pay thousands of dollars in ALEC contributions in order to help finance the private meetings, in the form of so-called “scholarship funds” for travel, lodging, food, etc.52, between special interests lobbyists and elected officials in order to enact laws that protect these companies’ bottom lines. 53 As the Center for Media and Democracy points out, 98% of ALEC’s funding comes from organizations like these. That much money ALEC is able to promote legislation it prefers in just about any state it wants.
utput=html 51 http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7BFB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665%7D/1-35day_mailing_civil-final%20new%20orleans2.pdf 52 http://www.scribd.com/collections/3614031/PA-ALEC-FILES 53 http://prwatch.org/news/2012/05/11443/cmd-special-report-alecs-scholarship-scheme-helpscorporations-fund-legislator-tr
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ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force
A number of good government organizations have found dozens of special civil justice related model legislation created by ALEC. Many of these have been passed or have attempted to be passed by legislators across the country. These documents include bills to pass law on “non-economic damages,” “joint and several liability,” and bills to limit right of trial by juries.54 Over decades, these bills by ALEC have chipped away at our most basic civil justice rights. ALEC and its corporate members have no regard for our constitutionally protected rights and are solely committed to protecting revenue for their clients – at any cost. ALEC brags about the work its Civil Justice Task Force has been able get done over the past ten-plus years by stating, “Since 1999, forty-three states have enacted legislation based on ALEC Civil Justice Task Force legislation.”55 Recently ALEC issued their “Tort Reform Boot Camp”56 report. In it, ALEC declares its priorities include “damages reform,” “venue reform,” and “jury reform” among others.” In the report, ALEC provides legislators with “talking points,” how “to gauge” or defeat the opposition, and unreferenced, arbitrarily defined ways in which their proposed policies benefit states. In plain language what ALEC really aims to do is protect corporations’ bottom lines and take away the rights of individual American consumers. ALEC’s civil justice bills, restrict jury ordered fines on corporations due to their negligence, limit monetary awards for pain and suffering which were awarded by juries, deny responsibility for corporations whose products have caused death and severe health implications, challenge an individual’s right of a trial by a jury of their peers and target those who have been made ill due to asbestos poisoning on the job.
54http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Tort_Reform,_Corporate_Liability_and_the_Rights_of_Injured_Americans 55 56
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Victor Schwartz: Leader of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force
For decades Victor Schwartz has led ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force in order to create laws in states that will deny an individual’s access to civil justice. He has acted as spokesman for “tort reform” related issues for years, even appearing in the documentary Hot Coffee.57 According to ALEC’s website, Victor Schwartz is listed as the top resource58 and co-chair59 for its Civil Justice Task Force. Mr. Schwartz has penned articles for ALEC’s “Inside ALEC”60 and has testified for ALEC on behalf of legislation it has sponsored.61 Mr. Schwartz is a partner in the Washington Office and law firm of Shook, Hardy, and Bacon, LLP. As noted later, Shook, Hardy, and Bacon is documented as the lead ALEC Civil Justice Task Force legislation adviser and creator.62 For decades Shook, Hardy, and Bacon has been known to be a lead firm for Big Tobacco.63 As of May, 2011, it was reported Shook, Hardy, and Bacon will be opening a Philadelphia office shortly.64 Most likely in anticipation of a strong attempt to enact further ALEC sponsored legislation in Pennsylvania. However, recently – most likely due to large-scale public outrage and media attention – Mr. Schwartz has been shamed into denying his involvement with ALEC.65 In a recent Lawyers.com article they state66: “Victor Schwartz, an attorney and leader on tort reform, said neither he nor his law firm, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, are members of ALEC and declined to comment further. ALEC’s website lists Schwartz as private sector chair of the Civil Justice Task Force. It is absurd to think that ALEC’s leaders think they will be able to get away with lies about their involvement with an organization that is responsible for so many unpopular and dangerous laws. There is a mountain of evidence growing which implicates their work to take away our most basic rights and they must be held accountable.
http://www.hotcoffeethemovie.com/default.asp?pg=victor_schwartz http://www.alec.org/task-forces/civil-justice/ 59 http://www.alec.org/about-alec/board-of-scholars/ 60 http://www.shb.com/attorneys/SchwartzVictor/HowBadFaithBecomesBadLaw.pdf 61 http://www.alec.org/task-forces/civil-justice/ 62 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Shook,_Hardy_%26_Bacon 63 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Shook,_Hardy_%26_Bacon 64 http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2012/05/11/shook-hardy-will-open-inphiladelphia.html?page=all 65 http://www.vltp.net/alec/long-time-alec-private-sector-chair-victor-schwartz-denies-alec-involvement 66 http://blogs.lawyers.com/2012/05/alec-leads-the-legal-war-against-consumers/
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Civil Justice Denial in Pennsylvania
A major motivation behind ALEC’s civil justice work in Pennsylvania has been their attempt to delay and dismiss any effort to hold corporations accountable for asbestos related injuries. Injuries that have resulted in serious personal health harm or even death. Crown Holdings corporation, an ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member with headquarters in Pennsylvania, has a long history of workers who have filed civil cases due to asbestosrelated injures. Media Matters for America describes how Crown Holdings has been trying to, “legislate its way out of compensating cancer and mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos by a company they purchased in 1963.”67 As of December, 2011, Crown Holdings has over 50,000 asbestos related claims by victims filed against it, with over 2,000 of those residing in Pennnsylvania.68 In the last four years, Crown Holdings has paid over $1,000,000 to victims who have been confirmed harmed by their products.69 Last year, Crown Holdings’ net sales ran to over a billion dollars.70 In 2001, Crown Holdings Corporation spent over “$100,000 in an attempt to influence the [Pennsylvania] state legislature” over the span of three months in an effort to escape responsibility for asbestos related worker injuries and death.71 There have been a number other examples of work by ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force more recently. An internal report by the Pacific Research Institute, an ALEC Civil Justice Task Force cohort, showed a list of successor liability laws that have been passed in Pennsylvania which have been directly modeled off of ALEC constituted bills.72 For example, they note the following: “Successor liability reform limits payments that a company (as a successor by merger) must pay as a result of asbestos claims. The law is based on a model Successor Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council. [15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1929.1. 2001]”
http://mediamatters.org/blog/201204200002 http://investors.crowncork.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=85121&p=irol-reports 69 http://investors.crowncork.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=85121&p=irol-reports 70 http://investors.crowncork.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=85121&p=irol-reports 71 http://old.post-gazette.com/regionstate/20010807lobbyistsreg2p2.asp 72http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCQQFjAA&url=http%3A% 2F%2Fwww.pacificresearch.org%2FdocLib%2F20100601_2010_US_Tort_Liability_Index.xls&ei=kRvJT4umJJ CN6QG908z8Dw&usg=AFQjCNG0Wf3ybvfqvZsLoLeRtCEjeBx_gg&sig2=OfleE4CBOzmhpmAp1aTeCQ
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The work of Crown Holdings Corporation with ALEC is invaluable to protect the billion dollar profits the company earns every year. Crown Holdings Corporation and the rest of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force members know that if they can spend as little as $100,000 to influence and write legislation to protect their billions of dollars then that is money wellspent. And Pennsylvania elected officials have been benefiting while ignoring the pain and suffering of thousands of victims of these companies’ harmful products.
More Examples Of ALEC’s Work In PA
Caps on Non-Economic Damages: Limiting financial responsibility (and saving a whole lot of money) for corporations
Another example of an ALEC civil justice priority has been caps on non-economic damages due to plaintiffs. If successful, ALEC’s special interests’ legislation would cap non-economic damages due to plaintiffs as decided by juries would be limited to $250,000 in every state.73, 74 Caps on damages have nothing to do with frivolous lawsuits, as every single civil case would be subject to laws passed which restrict non-economic damages. Take for example, a Bucks County teenager in 2007, who was accidentally hit by a school bus after school had ended. As result of the accident, Ashley Zauflik was placed into a medically induced coma and had to have one of her legs amputated and is now restricted to a wheelchair for the rest of her life – due to no fault of her own. She can no longer walk again – ever. Due to the evidence in this case, the jury found in favor of Ashley and awarded her $3 million to cover past and future medical costs and $11 million dollars for punitive damages (pain, suffering, etc.). Most would say the ability to walk is priceless but a jury decided the monetary award due to her was fair.75 However, due to a 1980 law called the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, the judge was forced to restrict the award amount to $500,000. Due to no fault of her own, Ashley can no longer walk and has only $500,000 to cover the rest of her life’s medical expenses. This is yet another example of how this type of civil justice legislation hurts Pennsylvania citizens.
http://mediamatters.org/mobile/blog/201205090002 http://www.alec.org/wp-content/uploads/TortReformBootCampGuideFinal.pdf#page=11 75 http://articles.philly.com/2012-05-25/news/31851370_1_bus-accident-liability-limit-state-cap
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Additionally, the judge who had to scale back the award – Bucks County Judge Robert J. Mellon declared a “reevaluation of the constitutionality of the statutory cap on damages…is necessary.”76 Furthermore, due to its severely harmful nature to the public the Philadelphia Bar Association has even officially declared it is against any or all attempts to enact legislation to create caps on noneconomic damages.77 Even in the light of Judge Mellon’s comments and the official declaration of the Philadelphia Bar Association, ALEC’s corporate lobbyists are trying to tell Pennsylvanians what its civil justice laws ought to be, and further restrict access to justice from Pennsylvania citizens. Former Pennsylvania ALEC member Rep. Scott Turzai78 came to the defense of caps of noneconomic damages as recently as February 7, 201279, by saying these bills are needed to protect against those people who “look for deep pockets as a way to make themselves wealthy.”80 Rep. Turzai was speaking about his support for House Bill 1907, which is under consideration in the Pennsylvania senate.81 Similar to the Ashley Zauflik case and a number of other so called ALEC “tort reform” bills, House Bill 1907 would target every civil case – not just cases which were possibly frivolous – from gaining any more than punitive damages awarded which were 200% of medical bills. If a senior were killed in a nursing home as result of gross negligence which showed $100 in medical bills then that person would be awarded a maximum of $200. Essentially regardless of the circumstances – including death – one would be arbitrarily limited to this capped amount. A sample of ALEC’s cap on noneconomic damages bill also shows the same type of logic introduced in Pennsylvania House Bill 1907.82, 83 This can be found in the appendix section of this report.
http://articles.philly.com/2012-05-25/news/31851370_1_bus-accident-liability-limit-state-cap http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/BoardResolution10105210312003?appNum=1 78 Mike Turzai is one of 18 Pennsylvania legislators who have since quite ALEC 79 http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticlePA.jsp?id=1202541281091 80 http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/234939-pa.-house-passes-punitive-damages-limit 81 http://marshallelder.blogspot.com/2012/05/pennsylvania-may-limit-punitive-damages.html 82 http://alecexposed.org/w/images/5/59/0G3-Noneconomic_Damage_Awards_Act_Exposed.pdf 83 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2011&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1907
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Venue reform, simply stated - ALEC doesn’t want you to gain access to one of the best civil courts in the country. Supported “venue reform” by ALEC is an attempt to make it harder for civil cases to make their way through our courts. It is hard enough for civil cases to make it all the way through most courts, venue reform is ALEC’s attempt to make the journey that much harder. So called venue reform gives more power to defendants in the selection of where a trial will be held and prevents plaintiffs from gaining access to courts which are more efficient. For example, in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center (CLC) has been found more efficient and better equipped in managing civil cases that are as result of injuries due to medical malpractice or corporate negligence than almost any other court in the country.84 Because of this fact, ALEC has made venue reform bills a priority in Pennsylvania. If successful, ALEC would make sure there is limited access by Pennsylvanians to awardwinning courts like the CLC. As result, hospitals and corporations would be able to get away from responsibility due to gross negligence by keeping your civil case in courts that aren’t nearly as efficient or prepared. As example of ALEC’s recent efforts - in October of 2011 ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member Shook, Hardy, and Bacon85 had Marc Behrens testify in front of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee.86 This effort was done in the defense of the venue reform legislation, Pennsylvania House Bill 1552.87 And more recently, Mr. Behrens issued a “white paper” on the matter in May of 2012.88
http://takingbackourcourts.org/quick-facts/ http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Shook,_Hardy_%26_Bacon 86 http://www.shb.com/newsevents/2011/Behrens_PaVenueTestimony2011.pdf 87 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2011&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1552 88 http://www.shb.com/newsevents/2012/PhiladelphiaTortLitigation.pdf
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ALEC recently learned it was dealt a huge blow to its venue reform efforts as Pennsylvania lawmakers have rejected H.B. 1552 and others like it such as H.B. 1776.89 However, you can be sure ALEC isn’t going to stop there and future venue reform bills are expected to come.
As recent as January 2012, according to their reports, ALEC declared Pennsylvania as within its crosshairs to pass its so-called “Phantom Damages Elimination Act.”90 The Phantom Damages Elimination Act is ALEC’s attempt to our right of a trial by our peers. Specifically, the act would take away the power of the jury to decide how much money you should be compensated due to medical malpractice, injury by a company’s product or harmful negligence by another. This act would arbitrarily cap payments before any facts of your case become realized. This law doesn’t just affect frivolous lawsuits – but all civil lawsuits. In its own report indicating their intentions, ALEC says those injured shouldn’t be allowed to “compensation for expenses billed” but rather “expenses paid.”91 Essentially the Phantom Damages Act would take away the ability for juries to award plaintiffs monetary awards for noneconomic damages. Since “expenses paid” are what can be shown only via receipts, “pain & suffering” essentially becomes an expense that amounts to nothing – including those who have died or families who have lost a loved one due to gross negligence.
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2011&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1976 http://www.alec.org/docs/Jan2012_InsideALEC 91 http://www.alec.org/docs/Jan2012_InsideALEC
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Trayvon Martin: Could it happen in Pennsylvania?
The “Stand your ground” law in Florida has been well-documented as ALEC created and enacted special interest legislation. The language of the bill provided by ALEC is the major reason why countless corporations have been quitting their membership.92 However, how possible is it that legislation in Pennsylvania? The “Stand your ground” statute in Florida has been directly linked to ALEC’s Castle Doctrine Act.93 The special interests’ bill was created and promoted by ALEC’s civil justice task force in 2005.94 An example of the exact identical nature of the two bills can be found below:
ALEC’s CASTLE DOCTRINE: 3. A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place [other than their dwelling, residence, or vehicle] where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony
And here's how it shows up in Florida law: (3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Several
http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Corporations_Who_Have_Cut_Ties_to_ALEC http://alecexposed.org/w/images/7/7e/7J2-Castle_Doctrine_Act_Exposed.PDF 94 http://alecexposed.org/w/images/7/7e/7J2-Castle_Doctrine_Act_Exposed.PDF
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independent investigations into Pennsylvania’s recently enacted Castle Doctrine Law in 201195, has shown the same type of unique, identical language found in the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force supported “Stand Your Ground Law.”96, 97 This evidence can be found in the following section below98: (2.3) An actor who is not engaged in a criminal activity, who is not in illegal possession of a firearm and who is attacked in any place where the actor would have a duty to retreat under paragraph (2)(ii) has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and use force, including deadly force, if: (i) the actor has a right to be in the place where he was attacked; (ii) the actor believes it is immediately necessary to do so to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse by force or threat; and (iii) the person against whom the force is used displays or otherwise uses: (A) a firearm or replica of a firearm as defined in 42 Pa.C.S. § 9712 (relating to sentences for offenses committed with firearms); or (B) any other weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use.
This is another example of how powerful ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force is and how they are able to influence elected officials to pass language in bills that their corporate funded supporters deem reasonable. These types of bills have had lethal implications for citizens of Florida and now for citizens of Pennsylvania.
http://www.nraila.org/News/Read/NewsReleases.aspx?ID=15275 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/18/00.005.005.000..HTM 97 http://2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com/2012/03/alec-and-castle-doctrine.html 98 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/18/00.005.005.000..HTM
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ALEC Leaders in PA on the Civil Justice Task Force:
The complete list of ALEC’s civil justice task force nationwide includes the following members. Pennsylvania civil justice corporate members are highlighted in yellow. The following listed corporations’ contact information can be found at the following Google spreadsheet, http://tinyurl.com/862ss7v.99 These are the members who directly create civil justice denying laws and work privately with state legislators in order to successfully make these laws official.
ALTRIA Client Services (Tobacco Companies) (VA) Bayer (PA) BNSF Railway Company (TX) General Electric Company (CT) Crown Holdings Corporation (PA) Entergy (LA) Exxon Mobil (TX) Farmers Insurance (CA) Georgia-Pacific Corporation (GA) GlaxoSmithKline (PA)
Honeywell International (NJ) Koch Companies Public (WI) Merck & Company, Inc. (NJ) National Federation of Independent Businesses (TN) Pfizer (NY) Security Finance Corporation (SC) Shook, Hardy, & Bacon L.L.P. (MO) State Farm Insurance (IL) TASER International (AZ) U.S. Chamber of Commerce (DC)
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Individual corporate/legal members of ALEC’s civil justice task force from PA:
As of June, 2011, the individual members and contact info for ALEC’s civil justice task force who come from Pennsylvania include the following individuals. These individuals help lead and facilitate ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force efforts in Pennsylvania100, 101: William T. Gallagher, Esq. Senior Vice president Crown Holdings One Crown Way Philadelphia, PA 19154-4599 215-698-5383 Michael F. Dunleavy Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Public Relations Crown Holdings One Crown Way Philadelphia, PA 19154-4599 Michael.email@example.com 215-698-5051 GlaxoSmithKline Jennifer Armstrong Media Contact 200 N. 16th Street Philadelphia, PA 19102 888-825-5249 Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org Richard L. Krzyzanowski General Counsel/Emeritus Crown Holdings One Crown Way Philadelphia, PA 19154-4599 215-698-5208
Marc Behrens Shook, Hardy, and Bacon Office address pending Philadelphia, PA Email: email@example.com 202-639-5621 (main number) Bayer Media Contact 100 Bayer Road, #4 Pittsburgh, PA 15205 412-777-2000 Contact Page http://www.bayerus.com/Foundation /Foundation_Contact.aspx
http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7BFB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665%7D/1-35day_mailing_civil-final%20new%20orleans2.pdf 101https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Atxhfii4Lg_HdERabmdlRHQ1b3dPWlZrUEM5SE5wQXc& gid=0
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To summarize, ALEC can be defined as an extreme stealth lobbyist organization whose sole purpose is to combine together multinational corporations’ special interest lobbyists and lawyers with publicly elected state officials in order to pass hyper-corporatized laws that deny us our most basic rights. In state government bodies across the country, legislators who look to advocacy groups for information and background on various issues has become the norm. However, ALEC is in a class all by itself. Funded and supported since the 1970’s by some of the largest, most well funded corporations in world, ALEC is behind the most dangerous laws ever penned in the United States. ALEC has relied on its ability to essentially operate unconscionably as a charity organization in order to sidestep state and national special interests lobbying laws that are designed to stop this exact sort of inappropriate interaction between the private and public sectors of our country. If we wish to retain our most basic constitutionally provided rights, then we must continue to investigate ALEC for the work it has been able to get away with for decades. Pennsylvania is no exception. Leaders of our state – from Attorney General Linda L. Kelly to Governor Tom Corbett should be forming a special investigation into the well-document claims by groups like Keystone Progress, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters have made about the nefarious efforts by ALEC. Due to the secretive nature of ALEC, it is difficult to determine where every Pennsylvania legislator stands in his or her relation to ALEC. All legislators who have not already done so, should declare publicly that they have never been a member of ALEC or acknowledge their membership and immediately resign. Additionally, the Pennsylvania legislators and corporations listed in this report that are still listed as ALEC members should also be investigated for their illegal collaboration within the ALEC network. This “public-private partnership” that has defined ALEC and has been allowed to exist for decades will rot away at our most basic civil rights and puts our democracy at risk.
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ALEC bill examples come from the Center for Media and Democracy
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This bill limits noneconomic damages, the payments injured plaintiffs receive as compensation for the diminished "quality of life" caused by the injury. It limits these damages to only the time the plaintiff lived, as opposed to the time he or she would have lived had the injury not occurred.102 Additional analysis from CMD: This "model" legislation attempts to arbitrarily limit the amount a jury can award for pain, suffering, disfigurement, or for the loss of companionship from the death of your spouse to an amount equal to the injured or killed American's lost earnings or $250,000. Thus, it limits corporation's liability for injuring or killing an American even if a jury would have determined that a larger amount was warranted based on the particular facts of the case based on the pain, suffering, disfigurement or loss of companionship that was demonstrated at trial. By limiting the amount available for pain and suffering or loss of a spouse to their lost earnings and medical expenses, it also has the effect of valuing an older or poor American less than a richer American, despite the unique circumstances of the case at hand.103
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This bill provides that, in determining a pain-and-suffering award, evidence cannot be admitted of a defendant's bad acts, income, or other information that might lead the jury, judge, or arbitrator to increase the size of the award. Corporations may fear that if a jury has evidence of its past wrongdoing or annual earnings, the jury may be more willing to award a larger award to the injured plaintiff, either because the corporation deserves the increased "punishment" or because it can "afford it." The idea is to limit a defendant's financial liability.104 From CMD: Additionally, this is one of several efforts to limit damages paid by corporations for pain and suffering and also limit punitive damages awards where a jury finds intentional misconduct by a corporations that caused the serious injury or death of an American. It would prevent a jury from hearing evidence relating only to punitive damages, until the very end of a trial, in the damages stage rather than the liability, denying the jury access to all relevant evidence during the entirety of its deliberations.105
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From CMD: This "model" bill is prominently titled the "Joint and Several Liability Act" but its actual purpose is the opposite, as can be seen in the first provision, in which the word "abolition" is included. That is, the bill is designed to eliminate joint and several liability, meaning that corporations would no longer be jointly liable for injuries caused by the products they manufacture or sell, along the chain of distribution. The bill would allow joint liability only if the companies deliberately conspired to commit a tort or injury against an American. Thus, this so-called model bill would reduce the liability of companies that sell a product that injures an American, by abolishing the legal doctrine of "joint" liability. This makes it more difficult for an injured American to recover damages (which cover all of the harms in the paragraph highlighted above) for all of their injuries from corporations that acted jointly but did not conspire to harm the injured American (which would generally be difficult to prove). This type of model legislation that eliminates joint liability except in unusual cases gives a significant advantage to corporations. In a comparative negligence state (which ALEC would like to be a universal claim), a plaintiff could be 20% at fault and four defendants could each be 16% at fault but escape liability. 106
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Pennsylvania Courts Diagram
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NOTES ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________ ________________________________
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