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NEWS RELEASE
May 29, 2003


CONTACT: Jamie Court - 310-392-0522 x327

Consumer Group & Author Reveal Corporation's Invisible Hand Behind Attack On Individual's Legal Rights

Santa Monica, CA -- The growing attempt to roll back legal rights for individuals in state house across the nation is being surreptitiously coordinated by America's largest corporations through the use of front groups, a national consumer group and author revealed today.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights tracks the use of such astro-turf groups in a book to be published June 1st by its executive director Jamie Court: Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher/Putnam). Publisher's Weekly said of the book, Court is "keeping the muckraking tradition alive."

"The invisible hand of the corporation is trying to steal more than the individual's money, but their legal freedoms as well," said Court. "Opinion leaders and the public would look at the attempts to restrict the individual's legal rights differently if they understood the self-serving nature of the corporate-funded and --directed campaign. Reporters must begin to ask the 'who,' 'how,' and 'why' behind state house efforts to limit the individual's rights but not the corporation's."

The "Astroturf" corporate consultants masquerading as independent, grass roots reformers, according to FTCR's research, include:
  • Common Good, described in Monday's front page New York Times story only as "an advocacy group…dedicated to changing what it calls the lawsuit culture," was founded by corporate defense lawyer Philip K. Howard, the Vice Chairman of Covington & Burling. This leading corporate defense firm represents many of America's largest corporations, all of whom have a large stake in limiting consumer's legal rights. The list includes Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Inc., and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, the American Automobile Association, the Association of American Railroads, the American Petroleum Institute, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Goodyear, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Trane, and Union Pacific.

  • University of Virginia Law Professor Jeffrey O'Connell is cited as an independent voice for legal limits on consumers yet he has a long history of working for the insurance industry ( Read more). For example, official state disclosure reports filed by the insurance industry during California's insurance Prop. 103 battle show that O'Connell was paid $67,000 by the insurance companies to advocate his positions for limiting legal rights of individuals rather than regulating insurers.

  • Michael Horowitz, now of the Hudson Institute, was formerly Acting Director of the Manhattan Institute Judicial Studies Program, when, as revealed in Corporateering, it bragged in its solicitations for contributions to its Fortune 500 donors that it has shaped the debate to limit liability for big corporations by mass mailings to judges with the corporate perspective. The think tank claimed to make "the rhetoric of liability reform incorporate transcending concepts like consumer choice, fairness and equity;" and ensure the "terms of debate remain favorable" by paying scholars to write books that articulate the corporate position and are then read by judges, commentators and talk show hosts. The think tank boasted, "Journalists need copy, and it's an established fact that over time they'll 'bend' in the direction which it flows. If, sometime during the present decade, a consensus emerges in favor of serious judicial reform, it will be because millions of minds have been changed, and only one institution is powerful enough to bring that about …We feel that the funds made available will yield a tremendous return at this point -- perhaps the 'highest return on investment' available in the philanthropic field today."

  • Groups such as "Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse," Court reveals in Corporateering , operate under the principle enunciated by Neil Cohen, the Grassroots Consultant to the corporate-funded American Tort Reform Association, and recorded on tape at a big business gathering at a Florida resort. "You need to have credibility," Cohen said. "And that means when you pick people to join your coalition make sure they're credible and if they're not credible keep 'em away. In a tort reform battle, if State Farm is the leader of the coalition, you're not gonna pass the bill. It is not credible. Okay?"
"Not a single consumer group in America that fights daily for the individual's rights supports limiting the injured consumer's access to justice," said Court. "It's time the corporations come out from behind the curtain and acknowledge their role to make this an honest debate."

Corporateering makes the case that corporations routinely and quietly (or not so quietly) rob us of our personal freedoms, including personal privacy, personal security, the right to legal recourse, and more. Indeed, "corporateering"˜the act of prioritizing commercial gain over individual, social, or cultural gain is everywhere in our lives, whether we know it or not. A pioneer of the HMO patients bill of rights, Court seeks to put the word "corporateering" into our popular discourse, and ultimately the dictionary, in order to give us -- the public --a way to articulate inappropriate corporate intrusions in our lives.

For more information, visit www.corporateering.org.

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