The Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) reported recently that California personal injury and other plaintiffs’ lawyers contributed nearly $7.5 million to incumbent and candidate campaigns in the 2003-2004 state election cycle. Since the 1997-98 election cycle, plaintiffs’ lawyers have spent more than $34 million attempting to elect allies who will reportedly protect their narrow agenda.
“These lawyers want a compliant Legislature,” said John Sullivan, CJAC president.
Individual plaintiffs’ lawyers and their firms directly contributed $5.6 million of the 2003-04 total, while nearly $800,000 was funneled through lawyer political action committees and another $1.1 million flowed through lawyer-controlled “independent expenditure” committees not affected by state contribution limits.
Sullivan noted that most studies of contributions vastly understate the trial lawyers’ money pouring into the system because they look only at PAC reporting and do not compute the larger amounts coming from individual wealthy personal injury lawyers.
The CJAC study reportedly found that $2.6 million was contributed to statewide office holders and $4.9 million to legislative candidates and incumbents ($1.2 million Senate and $3.7 million Assembly).
Personal injury lawyers spent nearly a million dollars on two candidates who were knocked out of competition in their San Francisco Bay Area primary races. Despite spending $509,000 on fellow plaintiffs’ lawyer John Carcione in the 21st District (San Mateo County), the lawyers saw Ira Ruskin come out ahead in the March 2004 primary. In the 20th District (Alameda County) the lawyers spent $401,000 to elect Dennis Hayashi only to see Alberto Torrico come away with the win.
Reports filed at the Secretary of State’s office show these other major beneficiaries of plaintiffs’ lawyer spending:
Assembly: Karen Bass, $176,000; Noreen Evans, $251,000; Thomas Umberg, $477,000; Betty Karnette, $151,000; Pedro Nava, $67,000; Lori Saldana, $87,000; Leland Yee, $35,000; and Dave Jones (Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair), $26,000.
Senate: Joseph Dunn (Senate Judiciary Committee Chair), $318,000; Deborah Ortiz, $37,000; Jack Scott, $33,000; Sheila Kuehl, $63,000; Christine Kehoe, $51,600; and Jackie Speier, $51,500.
In statewide campaigns, plaintiffs’ lawyer spending for candidates included: gubernatorial candidate and Treasurer Phil Angelides, $147,000; Attorney General Bill Lockyer, $548,000; gubernatorial candidate and Controller Steve Westly, $186,000; and Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, $762,000. These lawyers spent $650,000 for former Governor Gray Davis and another $629,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his recall.
Contributions by recipient and prior year contributions can be found under “Research” at www.cjac.org.
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