JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Criticized for Insurance Industry Ties
While Vice President Al Gore has vilified insurance companies in his presidential bid, the industry has traditionally supported his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- a contradiction that has clouded this year's presidential race, the Wall Street Journal reports. While Gore has targeted HMOs and pharmaceutical manufacturers as the enemy in the populist fight, collecting generous campaign donations from trial lawyers in the process, Lieberman has worked diligently in the Senate to protect these same companies from limitless lawsuits and has been rewarded with more than $420,000 in political funds from insurance companies since 1989. As the top recipient of insurance industry donations this election, there is "no industry Mr. Lieberman has a closer relationship with than the insurance companies, which have benefited from his crusade to curtail lawsuits," the Wall Street Journal reports, noting recent legislation sponsored by Lieberman and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) that would limit auto accident lawsuits by allowing lower premium rates for drivers who relinquish their right to sue for pain and suffering. In addition, Lieberman voted in 1998 to impose a cap on legal fees for attorneys who sue Big Tobacco, a measure ultimately left out of the antitobacco legislation. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader called Lieberman "the No. 1 enemy of the civil justice system," adding, "He's obsessed, as his votes show, with immunizing corporations from responsibility for grave harm done to innocent people." Indeed, his tactics may be compared to those of Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, as both have led the tort overhaul movement for revising the civil justice system and limiting the size and frequency of lawsuits against insurers. Lieberman spokesperson Dan Gerstein said that awarding of disproportionate punitive damages "drives up costs, stifles innovation, limits products available to customers and undercuts the competitive advantage our leading companies have." Lieberman has vowed to defer to Gore on any political discrepancy, however, and trial lawyers may be pleased to have Lieberman in the vice presidential office and removed from his role as "leading advocate of civil justice reform in the U.S. Senate," Victor Schwartz of the American Tort Reform Association explained (VendeHei, 9/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.