The so-called “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act” has returned to the House. Sokolove Law has spoken out before about how if this act were to become law, it would delay or deny medical compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases, rather than provide the “transparency” to prevent fraud that it claims.
The law’s return to the congressional floor owes no small thanks to lobbyist Ben Quayle, who, as it turns out, also authored the bill in 2012 when he was a Republican congressman representing Arizona. The revolving door between Congress and lobbies spins yet again.
History of the FACT Act
Ben Quayle, son of former vice-president Dan Quayle, represented Arizona’s Third District in 2011 and 2012 for his one term in office. During which time, he authored the original version of the bill, which passed in the Republican controlled House in 2013 but never received a vote on the senate floor.
Quayle lost bitterly in the primary election in 2012, but still found a way to push his pro-corporate agenda by registering as a lobbyist with the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), the advocacy arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And he’s still up to his old tricks – in fact, the current House version of the bill is identical to the one Quayle wrote 3 years ago.
The Chamber plans to make passing the FACT Act one of its top priorities, and has spent an undisclosed amount lobbying for the bill. Public interest and environmental groups have condemned the FACT Act bills, now introduced in the House and Senate, because they would provide burdensome delays, or even outright denials, for victims in need of compensation. What’s wrong here is that any such delay can literally mean life and death when dealing with aggressive asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.
Alex Formuzis from The Environmental Working Group (EWG) told Politico,
“The Chamber is throwing the kitchen sink into trying to muscle this bad bill into law, and now they’re adding to their lineup of lobbyists the congressman asbestos interests first recruited for their scheme to deny justice for victims.”
The Money behind the FACT Act
When the House Judiciary Committee voted on the FACT Act this May, 19 members voted in favor of it and only 9 against. But an investigation from the EWG found those 19 committee members, all Republican, may have had something other than chance binding their common interest. These Republicans who voted in favor of the bill have received substantial campaign donations from companies involved in asbestos.
The Koch brothers’ industrial empire sits near the top of the donor list. One of their companies, Georgia-Pacific Co., is facing approximately 60,000 lawsuits over its asbestos-containing pipe joint compound, with an estimated liability of nearly $1 Billion. PACs associated with Koch Industries have given the 19 Judiciary Committee members $241,500 in campaign donations since 2010.
But the Koch brothers’ donations are topped by Honeywell International, the Fortune 100 chemical conglomerate. Honeywell has out more than $1.1 Billion in asbestos damages since 2010 and in that same time has donated $245,342 to House Judiciary Committee members.
Other companies known to have significant asbestos liability, including Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and Union Pacific have no apparent shame about outright buying legislation, because they have also made campaign donations to Judiciary Committee members. All in all, the 19 members in favor of the bill have taken in almost $3.3 Million from dozens of asbestos interests.
Good for Corporations, Bad for Victims
The FACT Act may make it easier to weasel out of their liability to victims, but it certainly won’t have any good affects for those suffering from an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In addition to saddling asbestos trust funds with busy paper work, the bill may require victims filing claims to make personal information, including the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number, available to the public. This would leave them vulnerable to cybercriminals.
The asbestos industry will stop at nothing to avoid its financial responsibility to the people it hurts. The hardworking Americans who suffer from asbestos-related diseases, overwhelmingly veterans, firefighters, and shipbuilders, will be the ones paying a heavy costs while the asbestos industry saves their dollars.