Our View: When asbestos attorneys pay the pipers, what tune do they play?

The SE Texas Record Aug. 26, 2014, 9:01am

You can tell a man by the company he keeps.

Birds of a feather flock together.

Follow the money.

Cui bono?

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

 There's a cliché for every occasion and a kernel of truth in every one.

The ones above are apt at election time, exhorting us to pay attention to the connections and commitments of candidates, the desires and demands of donors. 

The company a candidate keeps, the “birds” he flocks with, can be enlightening. If we know his comrades and cohorts are self-serving phonies and rich elitists, his veneer of integrity peels away, his populist rhetoric rings false, and we can draw logical conclusions.

If we follow the money, tracing the trail of donations coming into his campaign back to their sources, and discover that his benefactors have in the past been – or expect in the future to be – the private beneficiaries of his public policies, we can judge accordingly.

He who pays the piper does indeed call the tune, and the tune may be either a pretty or an ugly one. It behooves us to find out who's paying the piper and what tunes they want to hear.

If the piper-payers are asbestos attorneys or firms, you can bet the tune they want to hear is the “Jackpot Justice Jive."

Why else would the Baron & Budd firm of Dallas and its employees have contributed more than $200,000 so far in the 2014 election cycle?

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, is the former head of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association and a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Tom Harkin. He received almost $40,000 from Baron & Budd's colleagues in New York - the major asbestos firm Weitz & Luxenberg.

At a January fundraiser in Corpus Christi (well outside the geographic boundaries of Iowa), Braley asked his real constituents – a group of trial lawyers – to help keep GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley from becoming the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which might happen if Republicans regain a majority in the Senate.

Can you guess what tune he'll play if he's elected?

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