Also, for anyone who wants to dispute the clear ties between the Democrats and trial lawyers, here are a couple pieces of information. One is a little dated, but that makes it no less germane...
(National Review...this is like 5 pages long so I only posted the first paragraphs)
The Democratic party has come full circle on tobacco. In 1988, Al Gore boasted that he had "raised tobacco": "I've hoed it. I've dug in it. I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it" and so on. Then he waged a ferocious anti-tobacco campaign. Now, Democrats once again view tobacco as a lucrative cash crop as trial lawyers begin investing their fees from the 1998 tobacco settlement in political campaigns.
Those legal fees are estimated at between $3 and $5 billion per year for the next 25 years. While the fees the tobacco companies will have to pay are still in arbitration in over 40 states, three years ago lawyers representing just three states-Texas, Mississippi, and Florida- were awarded $8.2 billion. These lawyers can be counted on to invest their newfound wealth in the industry that made them rich: the out-of- control system of tort litigation that underwrites, and is protected by, the Democratic party.
An estimated 50 cents of every dollar awarded to tort plaintiffs gets eaten up by lawyers and courts-and a great deal of that money ends up benefiting Democratic candidates. Over the last decade, the legal profession has led all other groups in campaign contributions-giving a total of $357 million to federal candidates-and 70 percent of its cash goes to Democrats. The 56,000-member Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) was the top PAC contributor to Democratic federal candidates in the last election cycle; the organization spent $2.6 million, 86 percent of which went to Democrats.
Individual attorneys account for the largest portion of trial lawyers' donations-and through their unlimited soft-money contributions, they influence the Democrats to such an extent that even the liberal media are forced to take notice. In a recent discussion about Democratic support for permitting lawsuits against HMOs, NBC's Tim Russert pointed out that trial lawyers had contributed $14.5 million in soft money to Democrats last year. Trial lawyers are also the chief reason Senate Democrats-even when they were in the minority-outraised Republicans in soft money.
The tobacco deal-the largest civil settlement in history-has created overnight billionaires, with plenty of ready money to invest in politics. As the Manhattan Institute's Walter Olson says, "The tobacco settlements have created a class of lawyers richer than any lawyers have dreamed of being in the history of the world. They really have become an institutional ATM for the Democratic party." According to the American Tort Reform Foundation, tobacco-settlement lawyers alone gave over $4 million to federal candidates in 2000. (The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the auto manufacturers gave only $1.2 million.)
In 1998, five Texas lawyers were awarded $3.3 billion for negotiating the state's $17.3 billion tobacco settlement; every three months, each of the five receives a check for $25 million. In 1998, the "Tobacco Five" accounted for the lion's share of the plaintiffs' lawyers' contributions that, in turn, made up 78 percent of all donations to the Texas Democratic party. In the 2000 cycle, money from the Tobacco Five represented 40 percent of the $4.8 million raised by the state's Democrats. (By way of comparison, the Texas GOP raised only $2.7 million in the same cycle.) The Tobacco Five also donated $2.5 million in soft money to national Democrats.
When arbitration panels in state after state make their final awards of legal fees in the tobacco suit, other states can expect their own new billionaires to wield similar political clout. And the record shows that these trial lawyers are savvy investors. Tobacco Five member Walter Umphrey, a longtime Democratic donor, received unwelcome attention during investigations of President Clinton's fundraising operations. The call sheet for DNC chairman Don Fowler to solicit Umphrey in 1995 read, "Sorry you missed the vice president: I know [you] will give $100K when the President vetoes tort reform, but we really need it now. Please send ASAP if possible." Clinton vetoed tort reform in the spring of 1996. Following the veto, Sen. Joseph Lieberman-a supporter of tort reform-accurately characterized trial lawyers as "a small group of people who are deeply invested in the status quo, who have worked the system very effectively and have had a disproportionate effect."