Illinois Civil Justice League: April 2005

April 26, 2005

Exposing the 'Hidden Agenda' in Illinois

Ryan Sager of the NY Post analyzed our ICJL study of George Soros, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and the Illinois race for Supreme Court.

His assessment, which was published in a column in yesterday's NY Post:

And so one group appointed itself traffic cop: the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the state's resident good-government watchdog. The "nonpartisan" group spearheaded a Tone and Conduct Committee — organized under the aegis of the state Bar Association — aimed at keeping advertising by outside interests to a minimum. The media bought this charade hook, line and sinker, referring to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform as "nonpartisan" and the Tone and Conduct Committee as "independent."

But, as Sager brilliantly exposed and first reported in his earlier column titled "Buying Reform," these 'independent' groups are nothing more than front groups funded by special interest foundations controlled by George Soros, among others.

But the cleanies have grander plans in mind. Specifically, they're lobbying for the state Legislature to ban all corporate and union contributions in all elections in Illinois and set up public financing of judicial elections.

"I think they would like to cut anybody out of the debate who disagrees with their agenda," says Edward Murnane, the president of the Illinois Civil Justice League.

To bolster his case, he points to the liberal foundation funding behind the Illinois Campaign Reform Coalition, an umbrella group in the state lobbying for sweeping restrictions on political speech. That funding is detailed in another report just released by his group.

It turns out that the eight groups under the umbrella (ICPR, the Sunshine Project, the Citizen Advocacy Center, Protestants for the Common Good, the Better Government Association, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Public Interest Research Group and the League of Women Voters of Illinois) have received about $3 million in grants from George Soros' Open Society Institute and the Joyce Foundation since 1997.

Those names should sound familiar to anyone who has followed the unmasking of the campaign-finance lobby at the national level. They are two of the eight liberal foundations that spent more than $120 million between 1994 and 2004 to fake up a "grass-roots movement" to pass the McCain-Feingold law, defend it in court and lobby for further restrictions on political speech.

To borrow from another recent Sager column headline, what the "cleanies" want is "Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee." In essence, they are proposing to change the rules to limit political speech for only select groups.

These state groups are part of the same effort to restrict all political speech deemed unworthy of a hearing by a cadre of liberal foundations.

These groups exist in nearly every state. And just as at the federal level, they get almost no scrutiny from the press. "The news media in Illinois have not really done the kind of reporting that shows who's playing this game," says Murnane.

"They accuse us of being a front for big business . . . we don't hide from that," he says, referring to his group's business backing. "They're hiding, pretending they're somebody that they're not." As in neutral, nonpartisan.

If politics is war by other means, then campaign-finance reform is politics by other means. The funders of campaign-finance reform have a political agenda — as shown by the other groups they support: These foundations also fund the Earth Action Network, the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood, the Public Citizen Foundation . . . and they oppose tort reform.

And, if the "cleanies" get their way in Springfield this year, only one side of the debate will get an opportunity to take the field. Last I looked, independent "referees" were not in the business of keeping one team off the field.

Once again, it's the bloggers keeping free speech alive:

Once again, we see the convicted swindler, George Soros, funding groups that are deceiving all of us by claiming to be nonpartisan and only "concerned" about cleaning up campaign financing. What they are really doing, is trying to shut up their opposition, by what ever means possible.

IlliniPundit puts it best:

There’s never anything “non-partisan” about changing the rules of politics. Such changes are always designed to benefit someone – incumbents, the media, or, in this case, liberal special interest groups.

It’s clear that the Illinois campaign finance “reform” groups are being funding by national Democratic interests, including George Soros, who has spent untold millions trying to defeat Republicans across the country.

Let’s make sure that in Illinois, voices other than Mr. Soros’ can still be heard.

I wholeheartedly endorse IlliniPundit's opinion on the issue, at least while the campaign finance rules in Illinois still allow me to comment.

April 21, 2005

Rewriting the Constitution

Apparently activist judges aren't doing enough to please their supporters. Now, George Soros (you know, the billionnaire campaign financier that's partnered with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform) is funding a new effort to literally CHANGE our U.S. Constitution.

The effort from Soros to change the laws and Constitution to his view of what America should be is being funded through $500,000 worth of grants to the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy (see here & here), a $270,000 grant (here) for support of the Constitution in the 21st Century project, a $156,500 grant (here) to support a "teach-in" on judicial appointments, as well as a $50,000 grant (here) for The Constitution in 2020 project at Yale University. I guess the moral of the story is that Soros has about $1 million in grant money for just about anybody willing to work for a more activist court system.

I originally ran across the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy when I found a few interesting blog entries on the ACS Blog. According to their Blog, the ACS is "one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations" with "over 100 law school and lawyer chapters all across the country."

Under their "Organization" entry, you can find this mission statement:

Promote a progressive vision of the Constitution, the law and public policy through speaking programs, an annual convention, a speakers bureau of leading scholars and practitioners, media outreach, and publications designed to turn the tide of legal debate both locally and nationally.

Turning the "tide" on the legal debate...? Seems like this is just another Soros-funded effort to push a progressive agenda for the courts for lawsuits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits. If you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, just check out the organization's list of issues, which lists "access to the courts" and "consumer rights" as two of their top agendas.

You can check out the Constitution in 2020 Conference website for yourself. One seminar was to include Charles Sabel, a Columbia Law School professor who teaches a law class on New Forms of Public Interest Advocacy, which explores "new strategies for reforming public institutions through law." His (not so) inviting website carries the tag, "This website, and everything on it, is copyrighted. We are lawyers. We sue." Really...

The ACS has student chapters at the UIUC, UChicago, and Kent law schools, as well as a lawyer chapter in Chicago. The UChicago chapter seems to be the only super-functioning chapter in this state and their events have included speakers such as federal Judge Milton Shadur of IL's Northern District. (Be sure to check out their photo gallery for the Janet Reno dance.) On the ACS Board of Directors you'll find former ATLA President Fred Baron of Baron & Budd (the SimmonsCooper partner in Madison County asbestos litigation). Isn't it scary to think that Soros is funding organizations that are starting student law school groups to promote the trial lawyer view of activist courts?

If Soros is willing to pay organizations such as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform to support their effort to silence anyone who criticizes the courts, certainly there's more Soros funding to help reform our Constitution, as well. Perhaps they'll change the First Amendment to read: "Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee" (borrowing a quote from NY Post editor Ryan Sager).

Remember, the trial lawyers and their support groups are more than free to criticize the President and Congress for their efforts to reign in lawsuits, but hell-hath-no-fury like a progressive group condemning a tort reform organization for questioning the contributions/relationships/influence between judicial candidates and the trial lawyers.

April 13, 2005

George Soros Funds ICPR?

Ryan Sager, an editor at the NY Post is calling it "Buying Reform." At ICJL, we're "Watching the Watchdogs," the same watchdogs that continue to push one-sided reforms to our state's judicial elections. All I know is that the mounting evidence is bringing even more scrutiny to organizations detailed in a February 2005 ICJL Study. Especially now that its clear that one of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's donors is George Soros' foundation - yes, the same George Soros who is credited with being the largest soft money election contributor in US history.

According to Sager:

Campaign-finance reform has been an immense scam perpetrated on the American people by a cadre of left-wing foundations and disguised as a "mass movement."

But don't take my word for it. One of the chief scammers, Sean Treglia, a former program officer of the Pew Charitable Trusts, confesses it all in an astonishing videotape I obtained earlier this week.

The tape — of a conference held at USC's Annenberg School for Communication in March of 2004 — shows Treglia expounding to a gathering of academics, experts and journalists (none of whom, apparently, ever wrote about Treglia's remarks) on just how Pew and other left-wing foundations plotted to create a fake grassroots movement to hoodwink Congress.

"I'm going to tell you a story that I've never told any reporter," Treglia says on the tape. "Now that I'm several months away from Pew and we have campaign-finance reform, I can tell this story."

Sager outlines the story, and if you doubt him or I, just watch the actual video located here, here, and here (entire conference available from USC's website here or from Sager's blog here).

Charged with promoting campaign-finance reform when he joined Pew in the mid-1990s, Treglia came up with a three-pronged strategy: 1) pursue an expansive agenda through incremental reforms, 2) pay for a handful of "experts" all over the country with foundation money and 3) create fake business, minority and religious groups to pound the table for reform.

Treglia's revelations help put in context a report just out from a group called Political Money Line, "Campaign Finance Lobby: 1994-2004," which follows the money behind campaign-finance reform.

That cash, it turns out, was the one thing about the "movement" that was masssive: From 1994 to 2004, almost $140 million was spent to lobby for changes to our country's campaign-finance laws.

But this money didn't come from little old ladies making do with cat food so they could send a $20 check to Common Cause. The vast majority of this money — $123 million, 88 percent of the total — came from just eight liberal foundations.

These foundations were: the Pew Charitable Trusts ($40.1 million), the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy ($17.6 million), the Carnegie Corporation of New York ($14.1 million), the Joyce Foundation ($13.5 million), George Soros' Open Society Institute ($12.6 million), the Jerome Kohlberg Trust ($11.3 million), the Ford Foundation ($8.8 million) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($5.2 million).

I couldn't find an online copy of the study by Political Money Line (although Sager has setup an opportunity to get "guest" privileges on their site), but I did find the 2001 George Will column referring to the study, "Who's Buying Campaign Finance Reform." My favorite line from George Will: "...reformer, Jerome Kohlberg, donated $100,000 to a group that ran ads saying 'Let's get the $100,000 checks out of politics.'" Not that Illinois has seen any $100,000 checks in Supreme Court politics lately.

Speaking of Illinois... While Sager focused his study on the broader national organizations, ICJL looked into foundation funding from the same eight organizations to campaign finance reform efforts in Illinois.

According to the websites of two of the eight foundations, more than $2.5 million has been donated to campaign finance reform efforts in Illinois since 1997. The Joyce Foundation and the George Soros "Open Society Institute" have fueled a majority of the efforts, including three direct grants to ICPR from 2003-2004 and five grants to the League of Women Voters of Illinois Education Fund from 1997-2004.

Another $360,000 in Joyce Foundation grants were given to SIUC and UIS for pre-ICPR promotional efforts and support for the Sunshine database.

The Justice at Stake campaign for Illinois has received $210,000 in five grants from the Joyce and Soros foundations to the Public Action Foundation, Protestants for the Common Good, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

The Joyce, Soros, Ford and Carnegie foundations have given another $2 million to Georgetown University for creation of the nationwide Justice at Stake campaign, $3.25 million to the Brennan Center for Justice (Brennan was the US Supreme Court justice known for judicial activism), and $550,000 to the USAction Education Fund. The Brennan Center serves as counsel for ICPR and the Sunshine Project. USAction is the anti-legal-reform group that ran ads countering President Bush's Madison County visit and serves as the national coalition for Citizen Action groups.

The Soros and Joyce foundations have given over a half million dollars to the Chicago-based American Bar Association Education Fund for Justice and Education for their "Standing Committee on Judicial Independence" and for the creation of "standards for and models of public financing for state judicial elections."

As Sager details, some of the Foundations didn't want any publicity for the efforts:

"We had a scare," Treglia says. "As the debate was progressing and getting pretty close, George Will stumbled across a report that we had done and attacked it in his column. And a lot of his partisans were becoming aware of Pew's role and were feeding him information. And he started to reference the fact that Pew had played a large role in this — that this was a liberal attempt to hoodwink Congress."

"But you know what the good news is from my perspective?" Treglia says to the stunned crowd. "Journalists didn't care…So no one followed up on the story. And so there was a panic there for a couple of weeks because we thought the story was going to begin to gather steam, and no one picked it up."

Treglia's right. While he admits Pew specifically instructed groups receiving its grants "never to mention Pew," all these connections were disclosed (as legally required) in various tax forms and annual reports. "If any reporter wanted to know, they could have sat down and connected the dots," he said. "But they didn't."

Maybe the press was afraid that Capitol Fax would poke fun at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and call it a Conspiracy Theory. Maybe they didn't want to feel the spite of people from the reform groups.

I just can't get over the irony that George Soros - the man that spent $23 million contributing to 527 groups like and The Media Fund and in 2004 made the largest soft money contribution in history - helps bankroll Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the group founded to "reform" the way money influences elections.

I just can't help but wonder why these foundations grant hundreds of thousands of dollars to the League of Women Voters of Illinois Education Fund specifically for "support of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform"? Why not just give the money directly to ICPR? I would hate to think that ICPR didn't know the money was being "funneled" through another source?

I enjoyed columnist James Norrell's view of the situation:

If there were an illustration accompanying the word "hypocrisy" in the dictionary, it would be an engraving of globalist billionaire George Soros.

Soros, one of the richest men in the world, backed campaign finance reform with huge cash donations to a wide variety of Washington "reform" special interest groups to accomplish what his funding conduit called an effort "to reduce the corrupting influence of very large donors" and to ban pre-election "issue advocacy" ads [....]

Now, arch-reformer Soros is pouring perhaps as much as $30-million of his own money into left-wing "progressive" organizations he believes are uniquely inoculated against the restrictions of the very law Soros bought and paid for [.]

Since the release of the February 2004 ICJL report, the ICPR has joined forces with the Brennan Center for Justice - an organization that has received $1 million in Soros funding in the past two years and whose namesake is considered the most activist jurist in modern history. In Illinois, they have retaliated by attacking the Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity, a Karmeier contributor. Funny, ICPR and the Brennan Center failed to file any complaints against the Citizen Action PAC for similar activities in their support of Maag.

Is there no doubt now, with George Soros funding ICPR's judicial reform activities and Michael Moore fueling the Center for Justice & Democracy and their work to counter any legal reforms, that the goofy campaign to ensure activist courts (like the ones in Madison County) has included "monitoring committees," movie crews, and - most of all - strategic litigation to silence critics.

Now, Soros-sponsored groups are targeting MILLIONS of YOUR TAX MONEY to pay for public financing of judicial elections and state-sponsored voter guides to be mailed to homes across Illinois. Under impartial auspices, these ideas might have merit. However, now that the League of Women Voters is even documented as taking money from these foundations, to whom could we ever turn over the administration of a TRULY non-biased voter guide?

Perhaps we should just hand it over to McCain & Feingold?

April 04, 2005

Blockbuster Idea!

The trial lawyers are quick to defend most class action cases by stating that they are just working to correct the evil actions of large corporations against the "little guy." There's no mention of the "little guy" when the lawyers fees outweigh the actual take by the plaintiffs class, however that's the general defense of our class action litigation system.

It's interesting that no trial lawyers were needed to resolve a claim of false advertising by Blockbuster this week. The Bi-State litigating team of Attorneys General from Illinois (Madigan) and Missouri (Nixon) took on Blockbuster, claiming their slogan of "No Late Fees" was inaccurate.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In January, Blockbuster began its "no late fees" ad campaign. But customers who kept videos or DVDs for a week were angered to learn they now had a choice: Purchase the items or pay a "restocking" fee of $1.25 or more.

As part of the settlement, Blockbuster will remove current "No late fees" store signs, and more clearly display the restocking fees policy. A one-time refund will also be given to customers who felt misled. The refund period will cover items rented between January 1st and March 28th, and requests must be made by April 28. Blockbuster will also pay $630,000 to settle deceptive advertising claims.

I'm not sure how this case missed Madison County (and who knows if it could be resurrected). Unbelievably, a claim of corporate wrongdoing was resolved without using the "Madison County Method". Instead, the claim was resolved quickly, the harm committed will be repaid efficiently, and the public's trust in the matter was represented through the more transparent process of the Attorneys General office.

And imagine arguing for months or years over the amount of attorney's fees. Blockbuster Idea!

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© 2005 Illinois Civil Justice League