17200 proponents take fight to corporate doorstep

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The Recorder

A coalition formed to combat changes to California’s unfair competition law has vowed to take its fight directly to the corporate donors that are funding an initiative to modify the law.

The coalition consists of more than 60 public interest groups organized around a political action committee called Election Watchdog. Last week, the group said it sent a letter to companies that have given money to Californians to Stop Shakedown Lawsuits.

The Shakedown group is hoping to collect enough signatures to qualify a November ballot initiative that would change the unfair competition law, Business & Professions Code §[17200. The group has raised at least $1.3 million so far.

“If we weaken our most important consumer protection law, someone is bound to get hurt. And it could be a member of your family,” according to the Election Watchdog letter, which was signed by the Sierra Club and California Public Interest Research Group, among others.

So far, trial lawyers have been the most vocal opponents to the initiative. But Watchdog board member Jamie Court said the initiative is dangerous to all Californians because it would prevent public interest groups from filing environmental, labor, consumer and civil rights cases.

“It’s seen as a lawyers versus the corporations issue. It’s really… public interest versus big corporations,” said Court, who is also president of the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights.

Tort reformers and businesses say trial lawyers abuse 17200, and they want to change the law to improve the state’s economy.

Besides writing the letters, Court said Election Watchdog planned to hold events up and down the state, including rallies and press conferences on corporate “doorsteps.”

Consumer Watchdog
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