Many of those following the Democratic primary race in the 53rd (currently represented by Ted Lieu (D), who is "termed out" of office, and seeking the Democratic nomination for California Attorney General) are asking why Butler is being targeted, and who the "independent" committees would prefer as the Democratic nominee in the 53rd AD.
(The Democratic nominee is certain to be heavily favored for election in November in a district in which the Democrats hold a 12% registration advantage.)
The three "independent" corporate / business groups which have already spent more than $450,000 to defeat Betsy Butler are: 1) "Californians for Balance and Fairness in the Civil Justice System, Sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California" ("CJAC"); 2) "Californians Allied For Patient Protection Independent Expenditure Account" ("CAPP" - also known as "Coalition to Protect MICRA" - MICRA being the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in cases of medical malpractice), and 3) "Cooperative Of American Physicians Independent Expenditure Committee" ("COAP" - which provides insurance, financial & risk management services to physicians).
Members of the board of directors of and recent major contributors to CJAC include some of the largest oil, insurance, medical, pharmaceutical, computer and real estate development firms in the world. What are the goals of CJAC and its member corporations in so vigorously opposing Butler? CJAC states that they seek to limit the risks to their members posed by litigation (including, presumably, litigation in which their products and services injured, maimed or killed members of the public.) They seek to defeat legislation supported by proponents of consumers rights. As Betsy Butler has worked as development director for the Consumer Attorneys of California, she would seem to be a natural target for CJAC.
How has CJAC used their funds to influence elections in the past? Here are two examples:
CJAC fought to try to keep Martin (Marty) Block from winning the 78th AD seat, (San Diego County) spending nearly $189,000 to support a Dem opponent who appeared not very electable (Maxine Sherard, who ran and lost in 2002, 2004 and 2006.) In addition to supporting his Democratic opponent in the primary, CJAC spent nearly $108,000 to oppose Marty Block. After Block won the Democratic nomination, CJAC spent over $81,000 to support his Republican opponent (John McCann). So, rather than supporting Ms. Sherard, CJAC was clearly focused on stopping Marty Block's political career. Block won.
CJAC also worked to put Joe Nation, a Democrat who is now a consultant for PG&E, into office, providing over $250,000 in spending in support of Nation, evidently in his race against Mark Leno for the State Senate in 2008. (Nation also ran against Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.)
Presumably CJAC's constituent corporations want to keep Betsy Butler out of the Statehouse to prevent her from championing legislation which will go against their corporate interests. But why are the other two committees, "CAPP" and "COAP" spending over $300,000 to defeat Butler?
And, one might wonder, who among the Democrats in the race would these pro-business / anti-consumer committees prefer? Which candidate is likely to have a approach more to their liking?
More on CAPP and COAP and their instructive history of campaign expenditures - including against Hannah-Beth Jackson and in favor of Tony Strickland - in a forthcoming column.