Blue Cross has spent $250,000 thus far. Kaiser, Bank of America, Countrywide, Oracle, Edison and Intel each gave $100,000. Auto dealers have kicked in $4.6 mil
The biggest corporations in California and the United States are spending six figure sums for a proposed November 2004 ballot initiative that they claim will help the little guy but actually removes their own accountability for unfair business practices.
The http://www.stopshakedownlawsuits.com site claims the initiative’s intention is to help “thousands of small businesses — nail salons, auto repair shops, restaurants, and many others –‘hit by frivolous lawsuits” but the big companies contributing would buy immunity for themselves.
The proposed initiative would change the law so that only government entities can sue companies when they engage in practices that are not allowed under the Unfair Competition Law, not public interest organizations or other institutional plaintiffs. It would eliminate lawsuits that are currently filed in order to prevent an injury or harm from happening and would stop almost every environmental case filed under the law. And the legislature would never be allowed to amend the law.
Blue Cross has been subject of several unfair business practices cases by hospitals, providers, and patients. Kaiser was the subject of a false advertising case that resulted in landmark disclosure. Bank of America and car dealers were charged with an unfair business practice for a bait-and-switch scheme. In the case, consumers were quoted one interest rate but given a higher one that included kickbacks to the dealer from the bank. These cases and most others, including lawsuits that collected billions from tobacco companies, would not go forward if the corporate-backed initiative succeeds.
“Big money from Goliath corporations is being spent to remove industries from accountability to the public under false pretense, “said Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and author of Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher/Putnam). “Self-serving corporate giants are trying to pretend like they’re David. Their broad changes would sweep away the law that helps the consumers, civil rights groups, environmentalists and small businesses hold these big corporations accountable for their pollution, fraud and threats to the public health and safety.”
In addition to car dealers, big donors to the initiative — many of whom have been held accountable for unfair business practices — include:
PACIFICARE HEALTH PLAN ADMINISTRATORS $10,000.00
KAISER FOUNDATION HEALTH PLAN INC. $100,000.00
PACIFIC LIFE $15,000.00
BANK OF AMERICA $100,000.00
CALIFORNIA GROCERS ASSOCIATION $10,000.00
COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS, INC. $100,000.00
SAFEWAY, INC. $5,000.00
GENERAL MOTORS ACCEPTANCE CORPORATION $25,400.00
FURNITURE TRADITIONS $5,000.00
BLUE CROSS OF CALIFORNIA $150,000.00
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS ISSUES MOBILIZATION PAC $100,000.00
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL GROUP INC. $25,000.00
NIKE INC. AND AFFILIATES $50,000.00
ORACLE CORPORATION $100,000.00
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON $100,000.00
CALIFORNIA BANKERS ASSOCIATION $10,000.00
BLUE CROSS OF CALIFORNIA $100,000.00
ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR COMPANY CALIFORNIA POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE $5,000.00
THE CLOROX COMPANY $10,000.00
INTEL CORPORATION $100,000.00
UNION BANCAL CORPORATION $5,000.00