The Senator from Willannoy

The Madison County Record Jul. 24, 2010, 11:42am

If you haven't realized by now, Dick Durbin doesn't often represent the people of the Metro East, or even Illinoisans in general.

Sure, Dick grew up in East St. Louis and graduated from Assumption High School, and he's served as our senator for 14 years, but much of his loyalty clearly lies elsewhere. Have we become his constituents in name only?

If not the public, then who does Dick Durbin serve? All you have to do is see whose bucket he's carrying. Every time you turn around, Dick's pushing another proposal to make life richer and sweeter for trial lawyers. You may not feel like he's representing us well, but the trial lawyers love him.

Trial lawyers contribute more to election campaigns than any other professional group. They expect to get something in return, and they get it -- government contracts, favorable legislation, tax advantages, etc.

Dick's top two political donors are plaintiffs' firms, and lawyers have contributed $3.6 million to his campaign coffers. Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel calls Durbin "the Senate's patron saint of the trial bar."

Dick has repeatedly supported legislation to give plaintiffs' lawyers a generous tax break by allowing them to write-off expenses they front -- but for which they are often reimbursed -- in contingency fee cases. It apparently would encourage more lawsuits, which explains why, so far, he has failed to whip it through the Senate.

"More suing for America" isn't a public priority.

Frustrated at his inability to deliver for his heavy contributors, Durbin recently has decided to sidestep his uncooperative colleagues in the Senate and appeal to the Treasury Department for an administrative solution. It would make the tax break a law by decree with no embarrassing public debate required.

Dick's done all right by the trial lawyers -– looking out for their interests in Washington, making sure our state remains a hospitable forum for their lawsuits, routinely providing much for the favored few and little for the many.

It would be nice if Dick represented all of us, but he doesn't. The service he provides to his attorney friends is a disservice to us. His encouragement of trial lawyers seeking to turn our courthouse into a cash cow for favored members of the bar has made our state unwelcome to business and caused havoc with our economy.

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