From a post on TaylorMarsh.com on May 8, 2008 by Pam Martens:
"On February 10, 2005, Senator Obama voted in favor of the passage of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. Senators Biden, Boxer, Byrd, Clinton, Corzine, Durbin, Feingold, Kerry, Leahy, Reid and 16 other Democrats voted against it. It passed the Senate 72-26 and was signed into law on February 18, 2005. Here is an excerpt of remarks Senator Obama made on the Senate floor on February 14, 2005, concerning the passage of this legislation:
"Every American deserves their day in court. This bill, while not perfect, gives people that day while still providing the reasonable reforms necessary to safeguard against the most blatant abuses of the system. I also hope that the federal judiciary takes seriously their expanded role in class action litigation, and upholds their responsibility to fairly certify class actions so that they may protect our civil and consumer rights...."
Three days before Senator Obama expressed that fateful yea vote, 14 state attorneys general, including Lisa Madigan of Senator Obama's home state of Illinois, filed a letter with the Senate and House, pleading to stop the passage of this corporate giveaway:
The AGs wrote:
"State attorneys general frequently investigate and bring actions against defendants who have caused harm to our citizens... In some instances, such actions have been brought with the attorney general acting as the class representative for the consumers of the state. We are concerned that certain provisions of S.5 might be misinterpreted to impede the ability of the attorneys general to bring such actions...."
The Senate also received a desperate plea from more than 40 civil rights and labor organizations, including the NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Justice and Democracy, Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), and Alliance for Justice. They wrote as follows:
"Under the [Class Action Fairness Act of 2005], citizens are denied the right to use their own state courts to bring class actions against corporations that violate these state wage and hour and state civil rights laws, even where that corporation has hundreds of employees in that state. Moving these state law cases into federal court will delay and likely deny justice for working men and women and victims of discrimination. The federal courts are already overburdened. Additionally, federal courts are less likely to certify classes or provide relief for violations of state law."
This legislation, which dramatically impaired labor rights, consumer rights and civil rights, involved five years of pressure from 100 corporations, 475 lobbyists, tens of millions of corporate dollars buying influence in our government, and the active participation of the Wall Street firms now funding the Obama campaign.
"The Civil Justice Reform Group, a business alliance comprising general counsels from Fortune 100 firms, was instrumental in drafting the class-action bill," says Public Citizen.
One of the hardest working registered lobbyists to push this corporate giveaway was the law firm Mayer-Brown, hired by the leading business lobby group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Chamber of Commerce spent $16 million in just 2003, lobbying the government on various business issues, including class action reform.
According to a 2003 report from Public Citizen, Mayer-Brown's class action lobbyists included "Mark Gitenstein, former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and a leading architect of the Senate strategy in support of class-action legislation; John Schmitz, who was deputy counsel to President George H.W. Bush; David McIntosh, former Republican congressman from Indiana; and Jeffrey Lewis, who was on the staffs of both Sen. John Breaux (D-La) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La)".
While not on the Center for Responsive Politics list of the top 20 contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, Mayer-Brown's partners and employees are in rarefied company, giving a total of $92,817 through December 31, 2007, to the Obama campaign. (The firm is also defending Merrill Lynch in court against charges of racial discrimination.)
Senator Obama graduated Harvard Law magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Given those credentials, one assumes that he understood the ramifications to the poor and middle class in this country as he helped gut one of the few weapons left to seek justice against giant corporations and their legions of giant law firms. The class-action vehicle confers upon each citizen one of the most powerful rights in our society: the ability to function as a private attorney general and seek redress for wrongs inflicted on ourselves as well as for those similarly injured that might not otherwise have a voice.
"Obama helped gut one of the few weapons left to seek justice against giant corporations and their legions of giant law firms."
Those rights should have been strengthened, not restricted, at this dangerous time in our nation's history.
According to a comprehensive report from the nonprofit group, United for a Fair Economy, over the past eight years the total loss of wealth for people of color is between $164 billion and $213 billion for subprime loans which is the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern history:
"According to federal data, people of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans: high-cost loans account for 55 per cent of loans to blacks, but only 17 per cent of loans to whites."
If there had been equitable distribution of subprime loans, losses for white people would be 44.5 per cent higher and losses for people of color would be about 24 per cent lower. "This is evidence of systemic prejudice and institutional racism."
Before the current crisis, based on improvements in median household net worth, it would take 594 more years for blacks to achieve parity with whites. The current crisis is likely to stretch this even further.
So, how should we react when we learn that the top contributors to the Obama campaign are the very Wall Street firms whose shady mortgage lenders buried the elderly and the poor and minority under predatory loans? How should we react when we learn that on the big donor list is Citigroup, whose former employee at CitiFinancial testified to the Federal Trade Commission that it was standard practice to target people based on race and educational level, with the sales force winning bonuses called "Rocopoly Money" (like a sick board game), after "blitz" nights of soliciting loans by phone? How should we react when we learn that these very same firms, arm in arm with their corporate lawyers and registered lobbyists, have weakened our ability to fight back with the class-action vehicle?
Should there be any doubt left as to who owns our government? The very same cast of characters making the Obama hit parade of campaign loot are the clever creators of the industry solutions to the wave of foreclosures gripping this nation's poor and middle class, effectively putting the solution in the hands of the robbers. The names of these programs (that have failed to make a dent in the problem) have the same vacuous ring: Hope Now; Project Lifeline.
Senator Obama has become the inspiration and role model to millions of children and young people in this country. He has only two paths now: to be a dream maker or a dream killer. But be assured of one thing: this country will not countenance any more grand illusions."