Sen. Bill Bradley stunned the crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Tuesday when he broke with a major supporter on whether the Clinton administration should pursue litigation against unpopular industries. Bradley said, “If legislation fails, you ought to have litigation.”
Last week, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who has endorsed Bradley, decried his former administration’s practice of suing the tobacco and gun industries.
Reich warned, “You might approve of the outcome in these two cases, but they establish a precedent for other cases you might find wildly unjust.” Reich further warns that the administration is using “novel legal theories” that “give the administration extraordinary discretion to decide who’s misleading the public and whose products are defective.” Reich adds, “Worse, no judge will ever scrutinize these theories … the goal of both efforts is to threaten the industries with the risk of such large penalties that they’ll agree to a deal.”
When given the chance to distinguish himself from Al Gore, Bradley instead chose to reject his own supporter’s concerns. Bradley said, “Yes, I would prefer legislation to litigation … but if legislation fails, you ought to have litigation.” Bradley added, “Litigation took place because the legislative route was blocked.”
This is exactly the view Reich decried in his Jan. 12 The Wall Street Journal article, “Don’t Democrats Believe in Democracy?” Reich concludes, “Yes, American politics is rotting … but the way to fix everything isn’t to turn our backs on the Democratic process and pursue litigation as the administration is doing … the answer is to make democracy work better, not give up on it.”
CSE official, Stephen Flaherty, who asked Bradley the question said, “I was stunned and disappointed by Senator Bradley’s remarks. He thinks it is OK to sue an industry just because you couldn’t get your legislation passed. That is a very strange view of the Constitution, the role of the Court and the separation of powers. Advocating more government lawsuits at a time when we need to save our legal system from the exploitation of greedy trial lawyers, is just bad policy. I hope Senator Bradley reads Robert Reich’s article and changes his view.”