Former Chief Counsel for Majority Leader Joins Dark Money Effort to Bleed Plaintiffs Dry
Behind every corrupt, power-hungry liar in professional politics is a power-hungry lawyer investigating ways to escape legal jeopardy while legalizing theft through corporate loopholes and other strangleholds on working families.
For Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that lawyer is John Abegg. Abegg—McConnell’s long-time chief counsel—officially decided last week to join the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) in Washington, D.C. ILR is essentially the US Chamber of Commerce’s wing dedicated to denying claims against plaintiffs raked over the coals by lax consumer protections and corporate greed.
ILR couches its mission in phrases and terms such as “civil justice reform”, “legal reform”, “improving the legal climate” and “lawsuit abuse”. In reality, ILR is an institution dedicated to softening consumer protections, imposing cumbersome requirements on asbestos plaintiffs, and propagandizing against mythical dangers to economic activity through junk studies that line the pockets of wealthiest members of the business class.
In April, ILR and the American Legislative Exchange Council were mutually tied to a mass effort in all 50 state legislatures to pass an abundance of bills with identical language. Researchers from USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity.
“…more than 10,000 bills that were notionally authored by elected lawmakers drawing a salary at public expenses were actually authored by lobbyists; more than 2,100 of these bills became law. These bills are a wishlist of special-interest legislative favors: limits on your ability to sue a company that injures you, limits on your right to protest, limits on your right to abortion…
These bills are given deceptive names ("The Asbestos Transparency Act didn’t help people exposed to asbestos. It was written by corporations who wanted to make it harder for victims"); and they are supported by an ensemble cast of "experts" who rove from hearing to hearing, testifying on the bills; they are often used to overturn local legislation (such as state laws that overturn city ordinances on Airbnb, higher minimum wages, limits on plastic bags, etc); and are a source of enormous profits for the companies that support them ("One that passed in Wisconsin limited pain-and-suffering compensation for injured nursing-home residents, restricting payouts to lost wages, which the elderly residents don’t have.").”
In some cases, paid ILR consultant and ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Co-Chair Mark Behrens even served as an expert witness to explain the bills on behalf of lawmakers. In total, the US Chamber of commerce spent nearly $23 million in federal lobbying in 2017.
As for Abegg, his career and ILR’s track record paint a picture of two entities married to one another in purpose and potential for collusive wrongdoing. Abegg was praised by McConnell for playing a pivotal role in getting Brett Kavanaugh into his seat on the Supreme Court. His career in Congress was littered with efforts pushing “class action reform” that handcuffed plaintiffs and protected corporations from damages.
He also orchestrated a politically driven assault on labor by Noel Canning Company:
“He helped the Republicans form a legal partnership with Noel Canning, a soft-drink bottling company that the labor board said had engaged in an unfair labor practice. Backed by the Republican senators and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Noel Canning sued to reverse the labor ruling and won a unanimous decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that Obama’s recess appointments to the board violated the U.S. Constitution.
For the case, Abegg worked with Miguel Estrada, the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner who wrote the Senate Republicans’ amicus brief. It was sweet political revenge for Abegg and Estrada, who was the federal appeals court nominee blocked from the bench by a Senate Democrats’ filibuster in 2002. One of Abegg’s ongoing assignments was to guide judge nominations through the judiciary committee and on to confirmation, but he was without a legal move to stop the filibuster.”
Abegg’s shadowy spin through the revolving doors of government from the office of the most powerful person in the Senate directly into lobbying at the most powerful business chamber in the country underscores much of the central issue with our government today. Legally, the lines between congressional offices and snarling corporate beasts have become more like paper thin cubicle walls in the same corporate enterprise. Powerful players rewrite the laws to their own benefit while ignoring the needs of The People, or worse, exploiting them for profit. The poor become products that corporations cash in.
It’s not governance; it’s theft.