John Edwards makes big business squirm
Posted Sun, 11 Jul 2004

Corporate America is fighting John Edwards' Democrat run for the vice presidency because of his career as one of the boardroom's most detested foes: a trial lawyer.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry announced on Tuesday he had selected Edwards as running mate.

Edwards' voting record in Congress "demonstrates conspicuous hostility to manufacturing and business," said National Association of Manufacturers president Jerry Jasinowski.

"As a trial lawyer, Edwards is associated with a controversial fringe of the legal profession that conducts raids on companies that not infrequently lead to larger financial gains for themselves than their individual clients," Jasinowski said.

"This fringe group of trial lawyers frequently drives viable companies into bankruptcy and puts thousands of Americans out of work," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce, the biggest business corporation, said it was seriously considering abandoning its traditional stance of neutrality to fight Edwards.

The chamber's head, Tom Donohue, vowed to the Wall Street Journal this week to work to defeat Edwards. "We would get the best people and the greatest assets we can rally" to the cause, he said.

A relative newcomer in politics, the North Carolina senator provokes emotional reactions from business leaders as one of their most feared enemies: a trial lawyer specializing in malpractice and personal injury suits, a good speaker and strong consumer advocate.

In one of his best-known cases, Edwards secured a $25-million award for a girl who was partly eviscerated by an uncovered swimming pool suction pump when she was five years old in 1993.

In his 20-year career, Edwards has secured payments of $152-million in 63 cases, according to records kept by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), which is backed by more than 300 corporations and municipalities.

"John Edwards supports a radical anti-business agenda," says the ATRA anti-Edwards internet site

Accusations of personal enrichment frequently crop up among critics of Edwards, the son of a mill worker.

The multi-millionaire senator "has raised, gotten millions of dollars personally for being a trial lawyer," complained Jack Faris, president of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Business leaders also squirmed at Edwards' campaign theme in his failed run to be the Democrat candidate for president.

"Today, under (President) George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks," Edwards said in a debate earlier this year.

"We need to get rid of billions in corporate subsidies" to help plug the budget deficit, he said in a June 2003 interview, opposing Bush's tax cut plans for households earning more than $200 000 a year.

Not surprisingly, the major union umbrella, the AFL-CIO, is a keen supporter of the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

"This is a team that will generate a lot of excitement and draw a sharp contrast with the failed policies and leadership record of George Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney," said AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.



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