The following content is sponsored by Alliance for Consumers.
Consumer protection rarely seems to be focused on actual consumers. Think of how often consumers only get a coupon at the end of lawsuit even as trial lawyers walk away with millions of dollars in fees. Or consider how state attorneys general used the massive state opioid settlement with McKinsey, the global consulting powerhouse, to send $15 million to their National Association of Attorneys General and made no concrete promise to put money into the pockets of the victims of the opioid crisis or their families.
What needs to be highlighted is how this systematic neglect of consumers is a symptom of the partisan hijacking of consumer protection in furtherance of a left-wing political agenda.
Look no further than the Shady Trial Lawyer Pipeline: private trial-lawyer firms who nab lucrative public contracts from politicians under the guise of consumer protection, contracts that help propel millions of dollars of highly partisan political giving to Democratic candidates and allied political committees.
A new Alliance for Consumers report shines a light on the Shady Trial Lawyer Pipeline, looking at federal political giving from 2017-2020 by eight law firms—referred to as the Shady Eight—that serve as Shady Trial Lawyer Pipeline posterchildren, with public contracts all across the country. These firms, directly and through their employees, staff, and 1,300 or so combined lawyers, generated at least $15 million in combined political donations to committees and candidates in the Federal Election Commission tracking system.
This $15 million from the Shady Eight dwarfs the federal donations generated by massive American corporations like BlackRock, Nike, or Twitter. And the partisanship in the giving is hard to comprehend: 99 percent to Democratic campaigns and allied political committees. For a sense of how aggressive this giving is, consider that the lowest percentage given to Democrats and their allies amongst the Shady Eight (98 percent) was from Motley Rice, a firm where named-partner Joe Rice bundled so much money for President Biden’s campaign that he is reported to be in the running for an appointment as ambassador to the Bahamas.
If a 99 percent commitment to Democratic campaigns and allied political committees isn’t telling enough, just look at where the $15 million went. About 40 percent went to the political committees that form the professionalized superstructure of the Democratic Party—party committees, funds linked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other similar organizations. Over $4 million went to the Biden Presidential campaign effort and the Democratic National Committee. Over $4 million flowed into Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that supports them. And over $2 million went to Democratic House candidates and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
These numbers help explain how consumers so often end up looking like afterthoughts. When consumer protection is handed over to trial lawyers who are 99 percent committed to Democratic candidates and allied political committees, trial lawyers who outpace massive American corporations in federal political giving, it is no wonder that consumer protection starts to look more and more like a left-wing money game.
Good governance and honest stewardship call for better. Never forget that this partisan political giving is supported by money from lucrative public contracts signed by politicians and public officials, money that really belongs in the pockets of taxpayers and consumers. These public contracts are often missing basic protections, including basic ethics protections. The contracts can be only a few pages, sometimes look like they were written by the trial lawyers themselves, and have glaring weaknesses, such as no expiration dates, appropriate conflicts protections, or provisions to ensure that contingency fees for the trial lawyers will not be taken out of money set aside for restitution to victims.
The first step in getting more money into the pockets of everyday consumers and fixing the broken consumer protection system is calling out the Shady Trial Lawyer Pipeline. Only the most hardened progressive activists could think that consumer protection should be a political money game run by left-wing law firms. Real consumer protection puts everyday consumers first. Real consumer protection puts money in consumers’ pockets instead of merely serving a left-wing political agenda. It’s time our public officials acted like it and shut off the Shady Trial Lawyer Pipeline.
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