CSE’s federal strategy was to identify races in states and areas that are strong for CSE and also are critical to the overall movement. We did so and took our message directly to the grassroots. In several cases, our activists and staff were the only organization on the ground distributing flyers about the importance of tort reform, as well as where candidates stood on this important issue.
CSE Pressured Candidates to Pledge Support for Reform. As part of this strategy, CSE distributed a federal tort reform pledge in key districts in four states. Two hundred forty one candidates signed CSE’s federal tort reform pledge. Of those candidates, CSE made sure that media and the grassroots understood the candidates’ positions on ending lawsuit abuse.
CSE Seizes an Opportunity with State Conventions. In addition to securing pledges, our strategy utilized state political conventions to get our message into the hands of elected officials. In Iowa, California, Texas, and Washington state, we participated in party conventions, utilizing the opportunity to get the message out on tort reform and the candidates’ positions on the issue to the most active voters.
“I hope you will continue to help us on tort reform and work with CSE…”
– Sen. Charles Grassley, June 2000.
CSE Leverages Focus on Critical California Congressional Seats to Discuss Tort Reform. In April, we launched our California office to offset trial lawyer momentum. We have focused our efforts in three critical congressional races: the 27th district, with Rep. Jim Rogan (R) challenged by Adam Schiff, the 36th district with Jane Harmon challenging Rep. Steven Kuykendall (R), and the 49th district where Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) faces Susan Davis. Toward that end, CSE engaged in several strategic activities.
CSE leveraged the GOP Convention in Philadelphia and hosted a breakfast with the California delegation on the issue of tort reform. Speakers included Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), and CSE Chairman and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray. Gray presented the audience of 350 delegates the results of our study examining the consumer benefits of the Texas tort reforms signed by Gov. Bush. We also sponsored a booth on “Democracy Row” at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. We used this opportunity promote civil justice reform to delegates, the media, and other convention-goers. We had a surprisingly positive response from attendees, and several comments from the media, who questioned what a free-market organization was doing at the DNC Convention. Our efforts demonstrated CSE’s non-partisan nature.
An important part of our effort to build and recruit new members is reaching out to the largest rising political force in the state of California, the Latino community. Toward that end, California CSE was part of the Latino Business Expo 2000 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The event brought together thousands of Latino businessmen and women from around the state. The reception to our organization, and our ending lawsuit abuse message was unbelievable. We were able to recruit more than 100 new members to the organization, received numerous invitations to attend other Latino events, and began to build partnerships with Latino organizations to help increase our visibility and credibility within the Latino community.
California CSE co-sponsored the California Republican Convention held in Palm Springs the weekend of September 17th-19th. As convention sponsors, we were able to provide every single attendee with CSE materials on civil justice reform. In addition to recruiting new members, we also held two workshops for attendees on civil justice reform and how Gov. Bush was able to take on the trial lawyers in Texas and win. These workshops gave us the opportunity to provide hundreds of politically active Californians our talking points for the remainder of the campaign season. Our workshops also led to a half-hour interview on a local Palm Beach radio talk show.
California CSE took our message and recruitment efforts to nearly 20 additional events throughout the state. We also participated in and spoke at numerous workshops and political events throughout the state.
Additionally, our efforts in the Latino community have brought us an opportunity to partner with Sepuede.com, an Internet portal for the Latino community that focuses primarily on business issues. Without charge, Sepuede.com features a link to CSE’s Web site on their channel page as the official link under the “Getting Involved in Your Community” section. In addition, we are working with the sponsors of the Web site to hold activist training seminars in the Latino community over the next year. We will do the teaching and they will do the marketing to the Latino community.
The week leading up to the campaign, we were able to go door-to-door in key districts to spread the message of ending lawsuit abuse. It is important that we leverage what we have built this year in California into defending against trial lawyer attacks come 2001.
Making Tort Reform an Important Issue in a New Hampshire Congressional Race. With the 2nd Congressional District race pitting a tort reformer versus a trial lawyer, CSE couldn’t let an opportunity go by to leverage this race in order to show support for ending lawsuit abuse.
Beginning this spring, New Hampshire CSE staff and activists, along with Sharkman, made it to fairs and festivals educating voters about the importance of tort reform and where the candidates stood on the issue. New Hampshire CSE attended both the state Libertarian and Republican Party Conventions to highlight this issue and distribute CSE’s tort reform literature. As part of our efforts, we:
attended 25 events,
distributed over 2,200 pieces of tort reform literature and hundreds of novelty items,
placed over 200 “End Lawsuit Abuse” yard signs,
traveled over 1,000 miles, and
mailed to nearly 1,700 voters.
Our efforts had an impact: the week before the election, Rep. Charlie Bass (R) made it home for a town hall meeting with 50 constituents. At the town hall, Rep. Bass spoke out against the “Patient’s Bill of Rights,” mentioning that it would trigger many frivolous lawsuits.” At this point, he stopped dead in his speech and gestured to the back of the room saying “And people like Rich Killion and Citizens for Sound Economy…they truly understand the dangers these frivolous lawsuits have on our economy and on us as citizens….they only benefit one group and that’s the trial lawyers…” He went on to thank CSE for our efforts in New Hampshire.
We will leverage the relationship with have built with Congressman Bass and continue to find opportunities to work with him on this important issue.
North Carolina Congressional Race Pits CSE Pledge Signer Against Anti-Reformer. In North Carolina, home of U.S. Sen. John Edwards—the largest trial lawyer soft money fundraiser—CSE focused our federal efforts on 8th Congressional District, where incumbent Rep. Robin Hayes (R) signed CSE’s tort reform pledge and faced anti-reformer Mike Taylor. In addition to getting out the “End Lawsuit Abuse” message, our intent was to recruit and mobilize activists to participate in our voter education efforts.
NC CSE’s popular yard sign for the 8th Congressional District race is displayed by a local merchant.
As part of these efforts, which came to a climax in October, we:
recruited more than 135 volunteer activists to help with pre-election activities;
conducted precinct walks, reaching a total of 21,995 homes in targeted areas across the state;
posted hundreds of yard signs throughout the district;
distributed over 1,000 pieces of tort reform literature;
attended nearly 50 events;
handed out over 400 novelties;
traveled more than 2,000 miles; and
mailed nearly 6,000 households.
Washington. In Washington state, a strong supporter of tort reform, U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton was challenged by anti-reformer Maria Cantwell. We started early in the year, ensuring that the tort reform message was in front of voters throughout the state. Washington CSE staff and activists:
traveled nearly 1,000 miles,
distributed over 5,000 pieces of tort reform literature and novelties,
reached out to over 3,000 voters on the ground, and
attended over 25 events spreading the word about tort reform.
One of our best events occurred when we participated in the 2000 Annual GOP Picnic, where an estimated 40,000 activists converged in Puyallup, Washington. CSE was there to educate them about lawsuit abuse and to show them how they, as grassroots citizens, can make a difference in this debate. CSE staff members manned three booths, briefing activists on federal legislation including, the Class Action Fairness Act and the Litigation Fairness Act, and signed up over 500 new activists. Meanwhile, CSE’s Sharkman and Uncle Sam combed the picnic grounds, looking for new recruits.
Sharkman and Sen. Slade Gorton entertain the crowd with “Who Wants to Be a Trial Lawyer Billionaire.”
Michigan. CSE also educated voters about candidates’ positions in the important U.S. Senate race. Spence Abraham, member of the Federalist Society and tort reformer is an important ally in the U.S. Senate for CSE’s efforts on tort reform.
Between Labor Day and Election Day, Michigan CSE staff and volunteer activists have:
placed 6,000 yard signs;
attended over 90 events, rallies, and debates; and
traveled over 6,000 miles.
Overview of CSE’s Efforts
State Supreme Court Results
State Legislative Results
We designed our multi-level efforts and independent strategies to coalesce into a long-term, sustainable asset that positions CSE to achieve its goals post-November. Our plan involves growth by building on existing assets. It involves a presidential, federal, legislative, and judicial strategy, each one building on the others.