K Street Files: Trial Lawyers Ready for ‘Med Mal’ Fight

Posted March 16, 2012 at 6:09pm

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a medical liability bill this week, and that means one sure thing: The place will be swarming with trial lawyers lobbying against the measure.

The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare Act would set new limits on medical malpractice, prescription-drug and medical-device lawsuits and would cap noneconomic damages in such cases at $250,000.

“You can expect a very extensive effort by us and by a lot of the groups that are also opposing this bill,” Linda Lipsen, CEO of the trial lawyers’ lobby American Association for Justice, said in a Friday conference call with reporters. “We’re going to tell our story to Members of the House on the Republican side and the Democratic side.”

She said the bill has widespread opposition from consumer groups to the National Conference of State Legislatures and conservative scholars who believe the tort system should be under the province of states, not the federal government.

But the bill does have the backing of big business.

“We have a long-standing support of federal liability reform,” said Matthew Webb, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s senior vice president for legal reform policy. “I would be very surprised to see it not pass the House.”

As for whether the institute will score the vote on its annual rating of lawmakers, Webb said internal discussions were ongoing as of deadline.

Sue Steinman, AAJ’s director of policy, said trial lawyers particularly oppose the caps on noneconomic damages. “You basically are saying if you are a child or senior citizen or person who is not in the workforce, you can’t punish a company as much as someone who is,” she said.

Talking the Talk

AARP today is launching a new advocacy and advertising campaign focused on Medicare and Social Security. Billed as “You’ve Earned a Say,” the effort will include grass-roots activism and town-hall-style “community conversations” in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as a nationwide TV ad campaign on network and cable channels.

An AARP press release said the seniors’ advocacy group wants to bring the debate over the two entitlement programs from “behind closed doors in Washington” to the American public.

“Instead of talking about Medicare and Social Security as line items in the federal budget, Washington should be talking about how to strengthen health and retirement security and ensuring Americans have a voice in the debate,” AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said in the statement. “Our members and older Americans have paid into Medicare and Social Security throughout their working lives, and they have earned a say in the future of these programs.”

‘S#@t Lobbyists Say’

You know those videos that have gone viral on YouTube parodying the parlance of just about every demographic from “crunchy mamas” to “people in D.C.”? Well, now there’s one for lobbyists — sort of.

The new group United Republic, which says it is working to end the corrupting influence of money in democracy, on Friday posted a “S#@t Lobbyists Say” video to make its point to “get money out of politics.” United Republic, you’ll recall, is the group with which Jack Abramoff — fresh out of prison and now a self-described reformer of K Street — has teamed.

The dialogue includes such faux lobby pitches as:

• “There’s a bridge going to the island, but we’re gonna need a bridge coming back.”

• “The Constitution’s really just a set of recommendations. We can work around that.”

• “I’m about to earmark this cake for my mouth.”

K Street Files is willing to bet that last line came courtesy of Abramoff.

K Street Moves

Yahoo is bringing on April Boyd, who is currently the assistant Commerce Department secretary for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, as senior director of federal government affairs. She will report to Margaret Nagle, who heads the company’s federal lobbying unit.

Boyd, one-time chief of staff to former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, will manage Democratic relationships for Yahoo.

“April’s experience on Capitol Hill and within the Administration will add great strategic vision to our growing Yahoo! team,” said David Hantman, Yahoo’s vice president for global public policy, in a press statement.

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