It's just the first step

The Madison County Record Aug. 28, 2005, 11:09am

On the hunt for the campaign cash that thrust him into office, Governor Rod Blagojevich promised Illinois’ deep-pocketed plaintiff’s bar he was no friend of tort reform.

The Chicago Democrat was “morally opposed,” he said, to caps on damage awards. Such reform wouldn’t become law on his watch, he promised time and again.

“I oppose caps philosophically,” Blagojevich told the Associated Press in 2004.

So much for morals and philosophy.

Regular readers of these pages know that The Record’s editorial board is a strong supporter of the medical malpractice reform bill that became law last week. It was a long time coming and a positive first step towards fixing Illinois’ notoriously unjust civil justice system.

But while we’re glad Governor Blagojevich signed it, we aren’t giving him credit just yet.

Arriving more than an hour late, the governor held his nose and signed Senate Bill 475 at St. Anthony’s Hospital last week because he thought to do otherwise would cost him Southern Illinois votes. While we agree with the end, the means—an elected leader basing decision-making on polls rather than principles— just bolsters what we already know about Blagojevich.

Putting it mildly, he’s a self-absorbed political chameleon keen on telling everyone what they want to hear, every step calculated to advance his own ambition.

That’s why Blagojevich could-- with a straight face-- betray his most loyal trial lawyer supporters, championing the same caps he assailed just weeks before. And all momentum aside, that’s why tort reformers need to diligently watch their backs.

Money hungry and with his re-election campaign looming, Blagojevich will surely try to make nice as soon as possible with those plaintiff’s lawyers he just betrayed. We cannot help but wonder what he sold them this time, as they lobbied him aggressively over the summer to veto the medical malpractice measure.

Did Blagojevich promise to derail the next stage of tort reforms, aimed at addressing the anti-business branch of the trial bar?

Did he pledge to stand in the way of efforts to stop Illinois’ parasitic class action lawyers, whose frivolous suits are driving away our jobs?

Did he vow to back an effort to subtly gut this medical malpractice measure, stripping away its teeth in a legislative counter-attack?

Never underestimate the machinations of a man with his eye on the White House. Especially one with a zero percent chance of getting there.

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