Friday, August 08, 2008

Why Edwards is Important: it exposes Big Media for the Shills they all are; UPDATED: The Money Trail Begins...

I think Glenn nails it as well as anyone, both with his comments and links here. You have to feel bad for Elizabeth, but most of all you have to bad for the sorry state of a media that goes to such great lengths to cover this up for so long. This is not a media that cares about the American people being informed; this is a media that only wants to manipulate the people and the way the people vote towards its own (outdated, bankrupt) ideology. The days of Gary Hart are long gone... (emphasis is mine):

EDWARDS ADMITS THAT HE LIED ABOUT AFFAIR: But the real story is how the mainstream press, despite knowing or strongly suspecting that he was lying, covered for him.

There are two Americas -- the real one, and the one the press tries to fob off on us.

UPDATE: Big roundup here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire: "I guess this means the LA Times is free to report on it." Better ask Tony Pierce, just to be sure!

Plus, from Ann Althouse:

Imagine if he'd gotten the nomination. What a selfish bastard — to run for the nomination while parading his cancerous wife about and knowing that if he won this story could have come out at any time — maybe in October — screwing up his party's chances!


MORE: Byron York:

Wow. The Edwards story has suddenly appeared on the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the networks — everywhere. John Edwards has somehow become newsworthy again.

Yeah, go figure.

We live in a sick culture--and the media serves only to make it sicker still. An utter disgrace.

UPDATE: A Dallas lawyer, one Fred Baron has come forward and claimed to have bankrolled the "privacy" of Rielle Hunter (pseudonyms, housing, and all). Like John Edwards, Baron is a very, very wealthy attorney, with a home appraised at $17,224,630.00, all 15,254 square feet of it. He and Edwards seem to have quite a bit in common. But of course--like Sgt. Schultz--he knows noootheeng... Right. (via Byron York at The Corner):

The Raleigh News & Observer has a statement from Fred Baron, the Texas trial lawyer who was finance chairman of John Edwards' campaign and who paid to relocate Rielle Hunter and the Andrew Young family from North Carolina to California. From the News & Observer:

"I decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives when harassment by supermarket tabloids made it impossible for them to conduct a normal life," Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer said in a statement, Rob Christensen reports.

"John Edwards was not aware that assistance was provided to anyone involved in this matter," Baron said. "I did it of my own voilition and without the knowledge, instruction, or suggestion of John Edwards or anyone else. The assistance was offered and accepted without condition."
Here is what the Dallas Morning News had to say about Baron, a partner in the law firm of Baron and Budd, one of the largest plaintiffs' firms in the Southwest... (emphasis is mine):
Dallas lawyer Fred Baron told The Dallas Morning News today that he paid relocation and housing expenses for the woman that former presidential candidate John Edwards has confessed to having an affair with.

Mr. Baron, who was chairman of Mr. Edwards’ presidential campaign finance committee, said he paid money for Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to another location.

He said she and another campaign aide, Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Ms. Hunter’s child, were being dogged by tabloid reporters who believed she had an affair with Mr. Edwards and fathered the child.

Mr. Baron would not say how much money he provided for the couple's move. He said Mr. Edwards did not know about the arrangement.

“The money was purely and simply to get them out of North Carolina and to get them into a stable place,” he said. "They were unable to afford a second home. It was to give them the ability to live somewhere where they wouldn't be harassed."

Mr. Baron is one of the top Democratic fundraisers in the country and has been instrumental in the Texas Democratic Party's efforts to rebuild. For Mr. Edwards' two presidential campaigns, Mr. Baron raised millions of dollars.
Ramesh Ponnuru had a terrific expose of the Edwards-Budd connection in 2004 entitled "Robber Baron". An excerpt:
... Edwards's selection by Kerry has renewed the debate over tort reform and whether trial lawyers have too much power. Baron casts an interesting light on that story. In a statement attached to a report of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Jon Kyl examined the controversial role that Baron's firm, Baron & Budd, has played in asbestos litigation. (The statement is on pages 81-107.) What Senator Kyl turned up suggests that the worries that people often express about trial lawyers seem to be amply justified in the case of this firm — and then some.

The evidence that specious claims are driving asbestos litigation has gotten sporadic attention. At various times the New York Times, Fortune, and columnists Robert Samuelson and Stuart Taylor have run stories on it. Cardozo University law professor Lester Brickman wrote a long article for Pepperdine Law Review this year arguing that "asbestos litigation has become a malignant enterprise." The Dallas Observer has done a terrific series of articles on Baron & Budd's role in that enterprise. Senator Kyl brought some of the evidence together, and added the testimony of witnesses called before the Senate, in a statement added to a committee report on asbestos legislation last year. But it's safe to say that few people are aware of just how badly civil justice has been corrupted in this area.

Kyl began his report by noting that because most exposure to asbestos took place more than 30 years ago, the rate of illness related to asbestos has fallen sharply over the last decade. Asbestosis has been called a "disappearing disease." Yet asbestos claims, Kyl continued, have been increasing. The number of claimants filing tripled between 1999 and 2001, to more than 90,000. The number appears to be rising still: Brickman estimates conservatively that there were 110,000 new claimants in 2003. The number of defendants has increased, too. Asbestos litigation has driven 78 companies to bankruptcy, according to University of California, San Diego, economics professor Michelle White, with a disproportionate number of the bankruptcies occurring in recent years.

Why are the trend-lines going in opposite directions? Professor Brickman concludes that 80-90 percent of recent claims are specious. How have these claims been generated? By coaching witnesses to provide false testimony, Brickman and Kyl argue, and by faking medical tests.

A Rand study found that by 1995, ten law firms accounted for three quarters of the asbestos lawsuits. Kyl's statement quotes an academic who estimates that just two firms account for half of the cases. Baron & Budd is one of them.

The firm suffered some embarrassment seven years ago, when a memo telling clients how to "prepare" for their depositions was accidentally released. The firm has claimed that quotations from the memo are damning only because they have been taken out of context. But Senator Kyl attached the whole memo to the committee report on asbestos, and it is hard to come up with an innocent explanation as an alternative to Sen. Kyl's view that it is a document coaching witnesses to lie. (It's on pages 109-131 of the link above.)

Many defendants with only minor roles in the asbestos industry have wondered how so many plaintiffs were able to identify their products as having caused them harm. A defense lawyer says in Kyl's statement: "We know...of locations where not only was our product not there, but [it] would have had no function there. Yet in case after case, Baron & Budd sues us and gets product ID and comes up with at least three or four co-workers [who identify the product]." The memo solves that mystery. It gives detailed information about which products would be used where, by whom, for what purposes. As Kyl writes, "Each description goes well beyond what one would think necessary to refresh the memory of someone who had actually worked with the product. Instead, the memo appears to anticipate that clients will not have any previous familiarity with the product."

The memo tells clients caught in a discrepancy to blame it on "the 'girl from Baron & Budd.'" It instructs them to say various things that will be legally helpful to them, without regard for whether they are true. ("You will be asked if you ever saw any WARNING labels on containers of asbestos. It is important to maintain that you NEVER saw any labels on asbestos products that said WARNING or DANGER.") It assures them that they will never be found out. ("Keep in mind that [defense] attorneys are very young and WERE NOT PRESENT at the jobsites you worked at. They have NO RECORDS to tell them what products were used on a particular job, even if they act like they do.")

According to Kyl's statement, the Dallas Observer found a former Baron & Budd paralegal who said that when she complained to a partner in the firm that a client had "absolutely no exposure to asbestos," the partner told her to "be creative." Her supervisor told her to "'make up stuff.'" Another former paralegal, who worked to get witnesses to testify about their supposed exposure to specific products between 1940 and 1970, told the Observer, "What I was doing was fraudulent. There was never any doubt in my mind about it." All of this is, again, in Kyl's statement.

Peas in a pod. One senses that this story has a lot of legs--provided any journalists actually choose to investigate. Don't hold your breath.

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