Rule of Law, Or Rule of Lawyers?

“If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them, Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it.” – Senator Dianne Feinstein, CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995 “It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers, Number 1. We all know there are people in Congress who want a return to the Clinton years when gun control was a national priority. But as with all politics, there are hidden motives behind this policy, since promulgators know that both history and statistics prove gun control does not make law-abiding citizens safer.An Election Primer For the UndecidedThe point of this paper is to help you explain to your friends and associates why voting for gun-ban politicians is destructive to their liberty. But to be effective, this must be done via real-life practicality rather than through intellectual discussion of Constitutional law which, unfortunately, often seems vague and irrelevant in today’s society.Previous papers examined the relationship between gun-ban politicians and their primary sponsors:

·        Politicians who vote against pro-gun bills in Congress garner significantly more campaign contributions from lawyers,[1] and·        Lawyers planned to use the same strategy on gun manufacturers that worked so well against tobacco companies.[2]

 The Lingering Economic Damage of the Tobacco SettlementWho pays for large-scale tort cases? The tobacco settlement of the 1990s had scant punitive impact on tobacco companies, because most of them are parts of conglomerates. For example, Phillip Morris, one of the tobacco companies involved in the settlement, is owned by Altria Group,[3] which also owns Kraft Foods.[4] Settlement payments simply become part of Altria’s liabilities on their balance sheet. In 2002, under “Liabilities: Consumer Products, Accrued liabilities” is a line item entitled “Settlement charges” which cost Altria over $3 billion annually for 2001 and 2002.[5]  This money in turn ends up in government coffers. For example, in 2002-3, nearly $1 billion of the Texas settlement went to health and human services, including education and enforcement programs requiring more bureaucrats, buildings and maintenance, and even debt service on capital improvement bonds for one hospital.[6] To remain profitable in the face of extensive, long-term compulsory levies by state governments via the tobacco settlement, retail costs of products rise so that income remains higher than expenses. When shopping for groceries, you essentially pay a “tobacco tax” so that Altria can remain in business: You pay Altria so that Altria can pay government entities which spend “tobacco settlement” money on their favorite projects. Meanwhile, lawyers received billions of dollars in contingency fees from the settlement, in which manufacturers were held liable for the deliberate actions of consumers. One Texas attorney was awarded $260 million for his part in the tobacco settlement in 1999.[7] One study found that:

Private attorneys in Texas, Mississippi and Florida made out like bandits, fleecing tobacco companies, smokers and taxpayers for $8.2 billion in legal fees – billions more than the lawyers themselves had demanded![8]

 After the tobacco settlement, lawyers and law firms tripled the amount of total political contributions to federal candidates and political parties, from $59 million in 1998 election cycle to over $183 million in 2004.[9] Government got bigger, lawyers got wealthier, and you foot the bill.Meanwhile in the Senate…From 2001-2006, the current Senate election cycle, lawyers contributed over $367 million dollars to federal elections,[10] while gun rights organizations contributed less than $5 million, or 1.3% the amount spent by lawyers.[11] Over $62 million of the attorney money landed in senatorial coffers, with 65% of it going to Democrats. It should be no surprise that Democrats averaged over 2.3 times the amount of lawyer contributions received by Republican senators or that Democrats are the primary source of anti-gun votes. Senators with an “A” rating from the NRA received well below the average lawyer contribution for all senators, while “F” rated senators receive over double the senate average. If you separate out the four anti-gun mainstays (Clinton, Feinstein, Kennedy, and Schumer) you find they average 3.6 times as much in lawyer contributions as the seven NRA “A+” rated senators. Only one of the “A+” senators is Democrat, while all the “F” senators are Democrat. It is also interesting to note that when separated by right-to-carry (RTC) status, senators from non-RTC states averaged 85% more in lawyer contributions than senators from RTC states, and 19 of the 20 non-RTC senators are Democrat.[12]Over in the House…Between 2005 and 2006, the current House election cycle, lawyers contributed over $88 million dollars to federal elections,[13] while gun rights organizations contributed less than $1 million, or 0.9% the amount spent by lawyers.[14] Over $22 million of the attorney money landed in representatives’ campaign funds, with 60% of it going to Democrats. Democrats received 62% more than the average lawyer contributions to Republicans and like the Senate, Democrats are the primary source of anti-gun votes. Representatives rated “F” by the NRA average 44% more in lawyer contributions than those rated “A.” The four leading anti-gun representatives (Conyers, Pelosi, Rangel, and Waxman) average 32% more in lawyer contributions than the A+ rated representatives. All “F” representatives but one are Democrat. Representatives from non-RTC states averaged 17% more in lawyer contributions than representatives from RTC states. While 47% of the House is Democrat, 67% of representatives from non-RTC states are Democrat.[15]Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me…Lawyers?“Man can live and live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain–and since labor is pain in itself–it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.” – Frederic Bastiat[16] It is interesting that Bastiat’s implied prescription for eliminating plunder applies to both politicians and violent criminals. Isn’t it curious that politicians who receive the most financial support from the wealthiest Washington lobby group also want you disarmed?About the AuthorHoward Nemerov publishes with ChronWatch, News Busters and other sites, and is a frequent guest on NRA News. He can be reached at HNemerov [at sign] Netvista.net.Endnotes[1] Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: Rebuttal to Michael Barnes, Brady Campaign, ChronWatch, August 5, 2005. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=16066 [2] Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: Campaign Finance and ROI, ChronWatch, August 7, 2006. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=22914 [3] Financial Information, Philip Morris, USA. http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/about_us/financial_information.asp [4] Investors Overview, Altria. http://www.altria.com/investors/02_00_investorsOver.asp [5] Consolidated Balance Sheet, 2002 Annual Report, Altria, page 25. http://www.altria.com/AnnualReport2002/AR2002_07_03_0100.asp [6] Fiscal 2002-03 appropriations from tobacco-settlement receipts, Texas Department of State Health Services. http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/tobacco/pdf/settlement.pdf [7] John R. Butler, Dan Morales and Marc Murr Have Some Explaining to Do to All Texans, Houston Chronicle, May 7, 1999. http://www.texansforreasonablelegalfees.com/explaining.asp[8] Robert Levy, The Great Tobacco Robbery: Lawyers Grab Billions, Cato Institute, March 6, 1999. http://www.cato.org/dailys/03-06-99.html[9] Lawyers/Law Firms: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?Ind=K01[10] Ibid.[11] Gun Rights: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?cycle=2006&ind=Q13 [12] Compiled from campaign contribution records available at Open Secrets, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics. Counts Kansas and Nebraska as RTC states for shall-issue laws passed legislature during 2006. Spreadsheet available upon request.[13] Lawyers/Law Firms: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics. [14] Gun Rights: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics.  [15] Compiled from campaign contribution records available at Open Secrets, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics. Counts Kansas and Nebraska as RTC states for shall-issue laws passed legislature during 2006. Spreadsheet available upon request.[16] Frederic Bastiat, The Law, page 6. Copyright 1998 by the Foundation for Economic Education.