Chamber Report Highlights State AG Conflicts of Interest Plaintiffs? Attorneys are a Source of Campaign Funds

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October 13, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform today released a report showing that some state attorneys general have created a conflict of interest by accepting campaign contributions from plaintiffs’ attorneys who were then rewarded with state contracts as outside counsel.

“This report is quite troubling,” said Thomas Donohue, Chamber President and CEO. “It brings to light that some state attorneys general may be using their state’s contracting system to reward their most generous campaign contributors – many of whom are plaintiffs’ lawyers.”

The report, titled “Cash In, Contracts Out: The Relationship Between State Attorneys General and the Plaintiffs’ Bar,” was written by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund. In addition to highlighting the serious conflict of interest some AGs face, the report shows how some of them are circumventing Congress and federal regulatory agencies by filing lawsuits designed to regulate corporate behavior without the input of those policy-making institutions. Further, the report recommends that large state contracts with outside lawyers should be subject to public disclosure requirements and competitive bidding practices.

“The close relationship between plaintiffs attorneys and some state attorneys general is symptomatic of America's legal crisis and yet another example of the trial bar’s unabashed effort to exert influence over our civil justice system,” concluded Lisa Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform.

The report was released as part of the Chamber’s 5th Annual Legal Reform Summit. Other highlights of the summit included the recognition of Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) for their leadership in supporting legal reform legislation, as well as a debate on the role of personal responsibility in a litigious society.

The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America's legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone. It seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial and educational activities at the national, state and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region