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The Race to the White House

U.S. Chamber to Fund Attacks on Edwards, Trial Lawyers

The ads will accuse attorneys of causing healthcare costs to rise due to lawsuits.

August 25, 2004|From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying organization, plans to help pay for advertisements that attack Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards and trial lawyers for supposedly raising the cost of doing business.

The chamber will fund a political organization to "tell the truth about the role John Edwards" -- a former trial lawyer -- "and the trial lawyers have played in driving up healthcare costs," said Bill Brock, a former Republican National Committee chairman and senator who co-chairs the group, the November Fund.

The campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry and Edwards considers the ads an example of President Bush "allowing shadowy outside groups to do his dirty work," spokesman David Wade said.

The Chamber of Commerce said it wouldn't endorse Bush, who included curbs on lawsuits in his campaign platform.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have made more than two dozen speeches linking job losses and higher healthcare costs to the kind of personal-injury lawsuits that Edwards, of North Carolina, was involved in during his 20-year career as an attorney.

Kerry's choice of Edwards as his running mate was the catalyst for the chamber's getting involved in a presidential campaign for the first time, Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said.

"We cannot ignore what may prove to be a make-or-break election for legal reform at the national level," Donohue said. "When voters go to the polls, they need to know lawsuit abuse destroys jobs, drives doctors out of business and forces companies into bankruptcy."

The November Fund plans to spend millions of dollars on the advertisements, which will run in seven states where polls show a tight race between Kerry and Bush, the Chamber of Commerce said in an e-mailed statement.

Campaign law bars political parties from taking large, unregulated donations from corporations and individuals. However, it allows third-party groups such as the November Fund -- known as 527s for the section of the IRS code that exempts them from taxes -- to raise unlimited amounts.

Bush on Monday called for an end to advertising by groups that are not directly controlled by the candidates, including the Vietnam War veterans who attacked Kerry's military service this month.

Kerry has been supported by trial lawyers, who oppose the Bush administration's proposals to limit lawsuits. Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer and former president of the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America, is a finance co-chairman of the Kerry campaign.

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