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If you listen to insurance companies, they will say that limiting lawsuits – “tort reform” – is the top concern of American voters.Using their own “push polls” and fantasy arguments, corporate interest spokesmen have created the myth that this issue is some kind of national priority. Yet time and again, evidence shows that the public couldn’t care less.
Senator Rick Santorum made “tort reform” a part of his campaign and was beaten by opponent Bob Casey, who opposes these efforts. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful and wealthy proponents of corporate immunity and limiting legal rights, spent over half a million dollars on an ad praising Santorum for his pro-“tort reform” stance.
Other congressional candidates who used tort reform and attacks on trial lawyers in their races also lost, including Mike Whalen in Iowa, beaten by Bruce Braley; Joy Padgett in Ohio, defeated by Zack Space; and Clay Shaw in Florida, beaten by Ron Klein.
In West Virginia, power company CEO Don Blankenship spent over $2 million of his own money supporting Republican candidates, most of whom lost. Blankenship, who sits on the U.S. Chamber’s national board, has ties to a group called “West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse” and has a reputation for attacking trial lawyers and the civil justice system at every opportunity.
Incredulously, a day after the election, in a last ditch effort to convince opinion leaders that “tort reform” matters to voters, the U.S Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform released a survey arguing that swing voters were demanding restrictions on their rights to bring lawsuits. This, of course, was completely contrary to any actual election results. As TortsProfs Blog pointed out, ” I didn’t see a single exit poll that included litigation reform as a common response to open-ended questions: ‘Asked which issues were extremely important to their vote, 42 percent said corruption and ethics; 40 percent, terrorism; 39 percent, the economy; 37 percent, Iraq; 36 percent, values; and 29 percent, illegal immigration.'” (CNN; see also Gallup’s Top Ten, which does include healthcare and “fixing government itself,” but neither of those items indicates “litigation reform”)”
Last week’s election was a referendum on a lot of things, and the voters made many statements with their ballots about what is important to them. The notion that the public cares about restricting their own rights to go to court is one of most over-hyped myths around today.

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