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Corporate Front Groups

The “tort reform” movement shields corporations from accountability by eliminating access to the court for consumers, workers and patients. Leading the charge are five shadowy front groups founded and backed by some of the largest multinational corporations. See who is trying to steal your rights.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) is the 800-pound gorilla of the tort reform movement. Funded by corporations whose average contribution tops $600,000 per year, ILR routinely spends an astounding $30 million per year lobbying the federal government.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is the ultimate smoke filled back room. On the surface, ALEC’s membership is mostly comprised of thousands of state legislators. Each pays a nominal membership fee in order to attend ALEC retreats and receive model legislation.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) was founded in 1986 and for many years was at the vanguard of the tort reform movement. Documents released in accord with the Tobacco Master Settlement revealed that ATRA was initially beholden to the tobacco industry, which provided as much as half of the organization’s total budget.

Founded in 1994, the Civil Justice Reform Group (CJRG) is the silent partner to its more boastful colleagues in arms. The secretive group has no employees, no office, and leaves the lightest paper trail possible. Run out of the white-shoe law firm Wiley Rein, the CJRG is the source of much of the tort reform movement’s ideas and resources.

The Searle Civil Justice Institute found a new home at George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center in 2010. One of its primary roles is to coordinate empirical research efforts. Searle pays between $70,000 and $100,000 to produce and promote each research project and that the issue areas of interest closely resemble ILR’s legislative priorities.

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