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Abusing the abusers of abuse

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Among all the parades News Hits takes pleasure in pissing on, none is more deserving of a little yellow piddle than a group known as M-LAW, an acronym for Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

According to the group’s Web site (www.mlaw.org) it was “created by concerned citizens who believe it’s time to stop the lawsuit ‘lottery’ and restore common sense to our courts.”

In the past, Metro Times has published stories calling into question the veracity M-LAW’s claim that average citizens propelled the group into being. Now come the groups Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) and the Center for Justice & Democracy (www.centerjd.org), which have just released a report documenting how corporate money spawned a nationwide network of such groups.

Especially damning were reams of newly released tobacco industry documents unearthed by states suing major tobacco companies.

“Big Tobacco spent millions of dollars annually supporting the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), its grassroots lobbying firm, APCO & Associates, state (lawsuit abuse organizations) and other activities to weaken tort laws in many states.”

In 1995 alone, Big Tobacco paid $5.5 million for ATRA’s services.

Now, M-LAW has always avowed that it receives no tobacco money. Well, maybe not directly. But ATRA, according to the report, provided $355,400 to get M-LAW started, plus another $284,500 in expenditures on the group’s behalf.

It was a situation repeated, in one form or another, in state after state.

The study’s authors, investigative reporter Carl Deal and consumer attorney Joanne Doroshow, concluded that their report “shows how large corporations seeking to reduce their liability to consumers created and bankrolled … the campaign to manipulate the media, the legislative process, the electoral process and the American public.”

News Hits plans to keep the report on hand to show folks from the Secret Society of Happy People should they ever come around demanding to know just why this space is so damn cynical. Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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