When Congress passed Obamacare in 2010, notably absent from its 2,000-plus pages was anything remotely resembling tort reform. This was the case, even though repeated studies have shown over the years that restraining out-of-control class-action lawsuits would reduce health care costs by as much as $56 billion annually.
President Barack Obama did say he would give it a look, but when Obamacare was signed into law, tort reform was not in it.
Rep. Henry Waxman, a Los Angeles Democrat, was chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee when it considered Obamacare in 2009. The bill that came out of his panel had no trace of tort reform. It happens that Waxman’s single biggest career contributor, according to OpenSecrets.org, is the American Association for Justice.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s not supposed to, because AAJ was formerly known as the American Trial Lawyers Association. The group changed to the more innocuous moniker after public-opinion surveys showed trial lawyers were among the least respected professionals in America.
Among AAJ’s top legislative priorities during the Obamacare debate was making sure tort reform wasn’t included. With the help of the many congressional Democrats who received more than 90 percent of the trial lawyer group’s campaign donations, tort reform was kept out of Obamacare. But we don’t recall any investigative pieces about this in the pages of the New York Times.
That’s not to say the Times isn’t interested in legislative potential conflicts of interest. In fact, the Times just went after another powerful House committee chairman.
This one is a Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa, the San Diego County Republican who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The Times’ investigation was published Sunday. Issa has been aggressively seeking documents from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius concerning how the Obama administration decided who should get those 1,400-plus waivers from Obamacare issued by her department. Sebelius isn’t cooperating. Issa has become so frustrated that he’s given Sebelius a Wednesday deadline to produce the documents or the committee will issue subpoenas.
The Times piece has the odor of a rush job. It gets some small but important facts wrong.
For example, contrary to the Times, Issa’s San Diego company doesn’t have an office in a building overlooking a golf course. The Times also accused Issa of splitting a holding company into “separate multimillion-dollar businesses” when he owns none.
The Times even suggested Issa went easy on Toyota during its recent troubles because his company is a supplier to the Japanese automaker. It’s not.
But the big clunker in the Times’ hit piece is its central accusation — that a building Issa bought for $10.3 million appreciated 60 percent after he secured congressional earmarks for nearby road construction. The Times used the wrong sales price, which was actually $16.6 million.
So much for the Times’ 60 percent appreciation accusation. We hope the timing of the Issa slam has nothing to do with his subpoena threat to Sebelius, just as we hope the Times’ ignoring of Waxman’s trial lawyer lucre and Obamacare is coincidental. But we’re not holding our breath.