NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 24, 2010

When the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) first set up the Attorneys Congressional Campaign Trust in 1979, it was a relatively small player, giving only $400,000 to political campaigns that year.  It quickly became a much more powerful force, says James R. Copland, Director of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute. 

For example: 

  • Since 1990, the group's political action committee (PAC) contributions to federal campaigns have exceeded $33 million, and lawyers altogether, excluding lobbyists, have contributed $1.05 billion to federal candidates.
  • Not only have lawyers' campaign contributions exceeded those of every other industry or profession over the last two decades; they have exceeded those of every other one in each two-year political cycle. 

As Fred Baron, one of the litigation industry's most successful asbestos lawyers suggested, the plaintiffs' bar has a stranglehold over the U.S. Senate: 

  • Two of the top five private contributors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the last campaign were plaintiffs' law firms -- New York asbestos and class action giant Weitz & Luxenberg ($505,400) and Illinois asbestos powerhouse Cooney & Conway ($326,500).
  • Over the last five years, Weitz & Luxenberg has also been the third-largest contributor to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who counts plaintiffs' firms as four of his top seven contributors.
  • The top two, and seven of the top 20, donors to Senate majority whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are plaintiffs' law firms, including Cooney & Conway and fellow in-state firms Simmons Cooper (his largest donor), Korein Tillery (his second-largest donor), Clifford Law Offices, Corboy & Demetrio, and Power, Roger & Smith.
  • In total, the litigation industry dwarfs all other industries in contributing to the Senate leadership. 

Since tort law exists primarily at the state level, trial lawyers of necessity have been a force in state elections as well, giving almost $725 million over just the past decade.  The trial bar works feverishly to control state supreme courts, and spending on many of these races, in states where they are held, has exploded since business began fighting back, says Copland. 

Source: James R. Copland, "A Report on the Litigation Lobby, 2010,", February 12, 2010. 

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