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    A trust fund for asbestos victims

    BY JACK KEMP
    05/15/2005
    by JACK KEMP on 5/15/05.

    FreedomWorks' position on the trust-fund solution to the asbestos litigation crisis has further complicated the issue on Capitol Hill ("Wrong approach on asbestos," Commentary, March 6). As a former co-chairman of FreedomWorks, I have a different viewpoint on this vital topic.

    Having studied the issue, I think it is clear that a medical criteria bill, which FreedomWorks is advocating, simply will not provide justice to the thousands of asbestos victims, nor will it bring relief to the growing number of companies (including many small businesses) that face the increasing risk of bankruptcy because of asbestos liability.

    To date, asbestos lawsuits have driven more than 75 businesses into bankruptcy, more than half of which have occurred since 2000. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and many more remain at risk.

    It is estimated that as many as 8,400 companies, representing nearly all 83 of the nation's industrial sectors, have been named as defendants in asbestos lawsuits. Both Fortune 500 companies and "mom and pop" businesses have become targets of asbestos litigation.

    It is evident that the asbestos litigation crisis is taking an ever-increasing toll on asbestos victims and the U.S. economy. Victims will continue to suffer, more companies will go bankrupt and more jobs will be lost if Congress doesn't soon take action to resolve the problem.

    In my view, a national asbestos victims' trust fund is the most workable solution to this appalling problem. The trust fund, by immediately pre-empting the current system, will not only ensure fair and certain compensation for victims, but also will bring much-needed relief to businesses, workers and our nation's economy.

    I support the current version of Senate Bill 852, the FAIR (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution) Act of 2005, because it represents a fair and equitable compromise for the multitude of interests involved. The FAIR Act has bipartisan support, and I encourage the leaders in the Senate to pass this bill to provide immediate relief for truly needy victims.

    JACK KEMP

    Founder and chairman

    Kemp Partners

    Washington