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Dickie, Eliot, Al & The Crusaders PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#11
The power and destructiveness of self-proclaimed do-gooders in America is distressing. Worse -- capitulation by big business, entire industries and government, kowtowing to unproven, exaggerated and theatrically sold claims. Activists have exploited public relations and economic considerations to damage businesses. It has become common practice for courts or government to penalize by fine, business practice alteration or even business destruction, on the basis of "Well, everyone knows ..." herd mentality or so-called conventional "wisdom."

An example is major corporations proclaiming their "greenness" and adopting business practices that may make no economic or customer service sense but satisfy the Green Movement's idea of planetary improvements. Essential to the "greening" purge, of course, is donating huge sums to various Green causes with dubious benefits. Much of this is tied to mankind's supposed "causing" of global warming. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship: the more scientific doubt cast on the mankind-is-cause theory, the more companies sign onto the Green campaign. With corporate time lag, by the time they're all on the bandwagon, we may be able to prove that man no more controls climate and earth's core temperature than we do sex, greed and superiority complexes.

Thus our cynical observation that two super heroes of these societal and economic trends stepped on their own capes just days apart.

Dickie Scruggs was the Mississippi attorney who perfected the concept of assembling hordes of plaintiffs - suffering a fate supposedly caused by some product -- and filing a class-action suit against a list of - shocking(!) -- deep-pocketed companies, to reap a huge settlement: mass-tort product liability litigation.

Scruggs became wealthy, although he didn't share with others well. He made hundreds of millions winning jury verdicts and huge settlements from the tobacco ($206 billion alone) and asbestos industries and others. Sometimes firms paid huge settlements pre-trial to cut legal costs, potential huge jury awards and bad publicity from a trial.

Spectacularly, Scruggs has pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a judge, in a lawsuit involving his efforts to avoid sharing so much of the loot from an insurance company with legal teammates.

Then there's New York's crusader, former attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who perfected the prosecutorial technique of trumpeting shocking legal charges against surprised perpetrators at press conferences -- and then extracting money and capitulations from the victims, sometimes never actually filing charges. Spitzer's tactics scourged the financial and insurance industries. He rode his crusader's steed into the governorship of New York, then lost it. An FBI sting uncovered his long-term patronage of a prostitution firm charging huge fees so it had enough revenue to allegedly launder criminal funds. Most prosecutors consider such associations and potential blackmail bad form.

These two had painted themselves as the champions of victims of big business, correctors of the government's failure to protect citizens. Little attention was focused on the dubious validity of some cases or the real reason for campaigns -- their own fame and fortune. Only in America's atmosphere of victimhood, entitlement and the "Do Something" mentality have these phenomenons flourished.

Of course, Al Gore has borrowed techniques from both men to forward the unproven global warming theory. The strategy: use courts, the government and public (media) humiliation/extortion to extract the most pain and suffering -- guilt and money -- from corporate America, before the hoax is exposed. This punishes those whom the do-gooders deem guilty, without trial - you and me as both customers and taxpayers: a global sting on Americans.

We can't help but feel concern observing the prosecutorial abuse of people like Spitzer and Mike Nifong in North Carolina and the potential of turning an independent do-gooder special prosecutor loose on packers and cattlemen in the 2007 Farm Bill. Or the use of the legal system by Scruggs to extort money and the worship of legal tactics by a group like R- CALF, which then gets caught in a governance and financial scandal and turns lawyers loose on its own whistle blowing members.

We can only hope that the fall of Spitzer and Scruggs causes voters to question the real motives, the lack of substantive, relevant facts and the damage done to industries, consumers and taxpayers from these campaigns. The weapons and tactics used are the same commonly used on small business, on ranchers, farmers, oilmen and loggers to exaggerate damage, destroy business efficiency, cost huge sums, increase prices and punish the citizenry. We cannot afford this cost or the damage from such ill- conceived "solutions" that are far worse the "problem."

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