Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Spend Big on Campaigns and Advertising in PA!

Two recent reports by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) highlight the financial lengths plaintiffs’ attorneys are willing to go to secure high levels of influence in Pennsylvania’s political arena as well as in the public perception.

The first study found that since 2017, the state trial bar’s PAC (LawPAC) and the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers’ Association’s PAC (the Committee for a Better Tomorrow) have received more than $15.3 million in contributions. According to the report, the campaigns of state Supreme Court Justice Daniel McCaffery and Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin have been the top two recipients of funds – receiving $1.8 million and $1.1 million respectively since 2017. The report also notes that due to Pennsylvania’s campaign finance laws, it is difficult to track the full impact that trial lawyers have on the Commonwealth’s political environment.

Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform’s (PCCJR) Executive Director, Curt Schroder, agreed. Schroder pointed out that the ATRA report provides a valuable service in identifying the big contributors to these PAC’s and the candidates who have benefited most from their largess. But according to Schroder, this is not the whole story. The aforementioned trial bar PACs also give to other trial bar related committees, such as Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness, PA Fund for Change, Fairness PA, Forward Together, and DT Pac. These PACs in turn donate the trial bar money they have collected to various candidates. This increases the actual amount of plaintiffs’ attorney contributions to candidates. This “shell game” of trial bar contributions makes it difficult to track all of the contributions being made with plaintiffs’ attorney money.

For example, The DT PAC takes their contributions from plaintiffs’ PACs mentioned in the report, and gives contributions to Republican candidates who presumably do not want to be seen as taking trial bar political contributions! Campaign finance filings only show contributions from DT PAC to these candidates and not where the money originally came from.

As stunning as the figures are in the ATRA report, they do not include plaintiffs’ law firms and plaintiffs’ attorneys that directly contribute to candidates. Thus, the actual amount of contributions from the plaintiffs’ bar is even greater than indicated in the report, according to Schroder

The second analysis focuses on legal services advertising in the state’s 11 media markets. The results show that in 2023 alone, $161.9 million was spent on more than 1.4 million local legal services advertisements – including print, digital, radio, outdoor and spot TV. It probably comes as no surprise that Morgan and Morgan holds the top spots in advertising dollars spent and number of ads.

As noted in an ATRA press release announcing the reports, “The top legal services advertisers in Pennsylvania wield substantial financial clout, collectively spending millions to saturate the advertising space. However, what is perhaps more alarming is the crossover between top advertisers and campaign donors, highlighting influence not only in the political sphere but in shaping public perceptions.”

Unlimited contingency fees collected by plaintiffs’ lawyers fund these ads. The ads bring in more clients to generate more fees to fund more ads and on and on it goes! Contingency fee caps are the answer. If plaintiffs’ attorneys can spend $161.9 million in Pennsylvania on ads, they can afford to cap their fees!

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