So suggests Robert Novak, which, if true, puts to question any claims Obama has for being a different kind of Democrat. One wonders how long the prosecutions of Mel Weiss, Dickie Scruggs, or the Kentucky fen-phen lawyers would last. Of course, one recalls, the Clinton administration wasn’t any better when it buried a prosecution of Fred Baron in the Baron & Budd script memo scandal. Baron, who was the head of the ATLA trial-lawyer lobbying organization, is now Edwards’s finance chair, though the media has yet to note this hypocrisy by the supposedly anti-lobbyist Edwards.
To the surprise of no one sensible, it turns out that John Edwards’s and Daily Kos’s claims about Nataline Sarkisyan, the 17-year-old California woman who recently died awaiting a liver transplant, are false:
- Independent reviewing doctors unanimously recommended against the liver transplant as too risky, which is why CIGNA refused to grant approval.
- CIGNA changed its mind in response to political pressure and publicity, but their delay in approval probably would not have affected Sarkisyan, as several reports indicate her treating medical institution, UCLA, would not have waited for insurance approval if a donor organ became available. (For example, Forbes.)
- And, of course, US patients are far more likely to get organ transplants (and survive organ transplants) than patients in single-payer health care systems—so Edwards has absolutely no solution for the problem of people getting sick and dying in a world of scarcity.
Scott Gottlieb has details in the Wall Street Journal. Attorney Mark Geragos has been retained to sue CIGNA, though CIGNA was only administering Sarkisyan’s health insurance plan, and would have suffered no financial repercussions from approving the transplant.
(Disclosure: I own between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in CIGNA.)
Democratic front-runner (if it’s okay to call him that now) Barack Obama tells a Newton, Iowa audience about his early decisions to pursue civil rights, community organizing and public office rather than more lucrative legal specialties, and is blasted in parts of the lefty blogosphere for the implied dig at John Edwards. (Shailagh Murray, Washington Post “The Trail”, Dec. 30; Kos, TPM, Kia Franklin, etc.) Per the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, “Obama is starting to use the term ‘trial lawyer’ more often on the stump to describe Edwards, perhaps hoping to capitalize on the negative associations many voters have with that particular profession.” (“The Trail”, Dec. 31).
P.S. Some highlights of our earlier Obama coverage: Aug. 5, 2004 (“Anyone who denies there’s a crisis with medical malpractice insurance is probably a trial lawyer”); Apr. 10, 2007 (making inroads nonetheless on Edwards’ trial-lawyer donor base; per Legal Times, “Despite Obama’s silence on the issues trial lawyers care about, those who support him say they are confident he will back trial lawyers when the time comes”); Jul. 31 and Aug. 5 (auditions at AAJ/ATLA convention). P.P.S. Plus Ted at Point of Law a year back (“far from convinced” that Obama will cross the trial bar, despite his vote for the Class Action Fairness Act).
There is a critical distinction between Mitt Romney’s and John Edwards’s wealth. Mr. Romney, as a businessman, made investments that created wealth. Mr. Edwards, as a trial lawyer, made his money through lawsuits that merely took from one pocket and gave to another, and probably destroyed wealth in the process. (Mr. Edwards’s multimillion-dollar medical malpractice verdicts almost certainly hurt the quality of health care in North Carolina.)
Little wonder that Mr. Romney understands that to improve the economy, one needs to expand the pie, while Mr. Edwards’s policy proposals focus entirely on the redistribution of the existing pie without thought for the future adverse consequences to the size of the pie.
Theodore H. Frank
Washington, Dec. 23, 2007
The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
More on the question of pie-sharing and pie-growing at SSRN. More on John Edwards’s trial-lawyer record: the Valerie Lakey trial; Edwards on the failure to warn; Edwards on stacking juries; and Edwards’s cerebral palsy cases (also: April 11 and links therein).
The Alliance for a New America is an “independent” campaign organization running television ads in Iowa on behalf of John Edwards—whose ability to spend money himself in Iowa is restricted because he is taking taxpayer money as campaign funds (all while bashing other candidates for taking money from “lobbyists”, even as he takes millions from trial lawyers and his finance chair is the former head of lobbying group ATLA).
Via Kaus, though Paul Krugman calls the Alliance for a New America a “labor 527”, it turns out that a third of its money comes from Rachel Mellon, of the Mellon family fortune. (Though one wonders why Krugman is willing to defend the 527 as a labor 527. It’s not like SEIU, which also heavily funds the Alliance for a New America, doesn’t lobby the government for special-interest legislation. If, as Edwards says, lobbyists are bad, they don’t suddenly become good because you agree with them. And if lobbyists you do agree with are good, then why isn’t the issue the underlying policy proposal rather than the fact of the lobbying, as Edwards tries to demagogue?)
Here’s the thing: Mellon is 96 years old. There are certainly competent 96-year-olds out there, and it’s possible that Mellon really likes John Edwards. But what we do know is that a New York trust attorney who holds the power of attorney for Mellon and the Mellon-related LLC that is fronting the money is a big fund-raiser for Edwards. Does Mellon know that she’s funnelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to John Edwards through her attorney through multiple 527s? Or is there something else going on? One expects Obama to complain:
According to the available records, which go back to 1980, she has never donated to a political candidate until a contribution was made in her name to John Edwards this year. Mellon’s involvement in the decision to donate to the Edwards campaign is unknown. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Alexander Forger, who has power for attorney for Mrs. Mellon, is a major supporter of John Edwards’ candidacy. Crain’s Business Journal reported in February that Forger and “a group of prominent New York lawyers” hosted a fund-raiser for Edwards at Essex House — the Central Park South address where his office is located. Forger has also personally donated $4,600 to Edwards’ campaign, according to FEC records. This is not the first time Forger has used Oak Springs Farms to support Edwards; in 2006, he made a $250,000 contribution to Edwards’ One America 527 group.
And even Daily Kos is asking questions.
(If there is something fishy, it wouldn’t be the first time lawyers have engaged in campaign finance shenanigans for John Edwards. See the case of Tab Turner. There’s the pending Fieger indictment, though Edwards and Fieger profess innocence. And Edwards still hasn’t returned all of the Milberg Weiss money, despite several guilty pleas and a pending indictment.)
Speaking of Edwards and demagoguery: he’s dropped references to the Mellons from his stump talks.
This spectacle has brought forth recriminations from politicians who picture the lenders as James Bond villains, cackling at the chance to toss hard-working families out on the street. In fact, this course is almost as bad a deal for lenders as it is for borrowers. They typically lose up to half the value of the mortgage on foreclosures.
From listening to the critics, you’d never guess that. Barack Obama denounces “predatory lenders” for “driving low-income families into financial ruin.” Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, blames everything on an epidemic of “abusive lending.”
But lenders who made bad decisions are already paying the price. Many mortgage companies have gone bankrupt. And if these loans are so unconscionable, the question is not why the foreclosure rate is so high but why it’s so low. …
The remedies urged by Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the like include placing a moratorium on foreclosures, freezing teaser rates for five years or more, and forcing lenders to reduce loan amounts to reflect deflated home values. These options are conspicuous for a couple major defects.
The first is that they punish lenders for the failings of borrowers. Why should someone who has kept the terms of a contract be penalized for the benefit of the party that didn’t? A lot of people took a calculated gamble on interest rates and home prices. Had they bet right, they’d be reaping the rewards. Since they bet wrong, they are entitled to bear the consequences.
- “I’ve always thought that promoting yourself as a ‘Super Lawyer’ or ‘Best Lawyer’ was pathetic, self-aggrandizing and meaningless.” [Larry Bodine; Karen Donovan, Portfolio (“cheesiest”); ABA Journal]
- That big campaign by bossy public health groups and tobacco-suit veterans for legal restrictions on fat in the American diet is still with us, even as its scientific credibility falters [Tierney, NYT]
- “1,700 Connecticut Attorneys Suspended Over $110 Bill” — now that sounds like a bargain [ABA Journal]
- Blackwater meets Elmer Gantry? John O’Sullivan shouldn’t plan on being invited to the Edwards inaugural [NRO Corner]
- Nor would it be prudent to invite Felix Salmon and Ben Stein to the same dinner party [Portfolio; more]
- Truly dreadful idea from feminist Northwestern lawprof Kimberly Yuracko: constitution obliges states to ban sexist homeschooling [SSRN via Prawfsblawg; Serious Learning, Ragamuffin Studies, TalkToAction, Marcy Muser]
- New at Point of Law: some results of Tuesday’s election; employers whipsawed on risk of fetal injury; signs of exhaustion at long jury trials; wanna become a law professor?; 9/11 dust injury, or ground-up pills in his bloodstream?; more on Chevron/Texaco and the Ecuador Indians; dept. of New York Times self-parody; and more;
- Lawyer who sued McDonald’s over cheese-allergic client served cheeseburger (Aug. 10, Sept. 1) asks to be released from case, says he’s quitting law practice [LegalNewsLine]
- Of seven leading White House aspirants, all but McCain have law degrees, and all the other six but Romney practiced as lawyers [Liptak, NYT]
- UK: “A lorry driver sentenced to 150 hours’ community service for a drunken racist assault has been let off after probation chiefs claimed the punishment could breach EU working hours limits.” [Daily Mail]
- Notation on Scruggs’s court file: to be “kept away from the press” [five years ago on Overlawyered]